06:16, October 23 92 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-23 06:16:03
Public backs ban on long-term unpaid internships, study finds

A majority of people support a ban on long-term unpaid internships and the introduction of new rules preventing companies from organising short-term spots via informal channels, a study suggests.

The research was released by the Social Mobility Commission on Monday, as parliamentarians prepared to debate a bill proposing a ban on work experience placements lasting more than four weeks.

The survey of almost 5,000 adults carried out by the independent public body suggested 72% of the public backed a change in the law, with 42% “strongly supporting” a ban.

In addition, 80% of people would back a proposal to force firms to publicly advertise any placements.

“Unpaid internships are a modern scandal which must end. Internships are the new rung on the career ladder,” said the former Labour cabinet member Alan Milburn, who chairs the commission.

“They have become a route to a good professional job, but access to them tends to depend on who, not what, you know, and young people from low income backgrounds are excluded because they are unpaid.

“They miss out on a great career opportunity and employers miss out from a wider pool of talent. Unpaid internships are damaging for social mobility. It is time to consign them to history.”

A private member’s bill, introduced by the Conservative peer Chris Holmes, is due to get its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday. “Unpaid internships leave young people in a catch-22 situation; unable to get a job because they haven’t got experience and unable to get experience because they can’t afford to work for free,” said Holmes.

“The practice is clearly discriminatory, crushes creativity and competitiveness and holds individuals and our country back.”

Such a bill can pass from the Lords to the Commons if the upper chamber votes for it and an MP supports it. But it is relatively rare for sufficient parliamentary time to be allotted, meaning it is unlikely to become law.

Sir Peter Lampl, the chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Unpaid internships are a major obstacle to social mobility … [they] prevent young people from low- and moderate-income backgrounds from getting into some of the most competitive sectors like the media, the City and the arts.”

In April, research from the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank suggested the number of internships had increased dramatically since 2010.