New research from social enterprise, Internocracy has found that only 12% of senior and middle managers realise that unpaid internships may be illegal.

The research, carried out by YouGov, also found that 10% of 18-35s who have heard of internships understand that unpaid internships may be illegal. Of almost 2,000 surveyed, the majority (84%) of people who have worked in a company which employs interns thought that the interns in their organisations were useful.

Over half (59%) of people who have heard of internships think that companies exploit interns as a source of free labour, whilst 9% of people agree that companies should not pay their interns.

Internocracy CEO, Becky Heath, said:
“When such low numbers of young people and employers actually understand the rights interns have in the workplace, it’s no wonder that exploitation is rife in popular sectors where competition for experience is fierce.

“The reality is that if an organisation takes on someone to do work for them, whether or not they are called an ‘intern’, they should be paid at least national minimum wage if they are being given responsibilities and are expected to work set hours. ‘Intern’ isn’t code for ‘free labour’ and it’s time companies stopped profiting from exploiting young people.”

Dom Potter, Co-founder of Internocracy, said:
“The last few weeks have seen the atrocious act of internships being auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Conservative annual ball. But in reality this is what happens every time an unpaid internship placement is filled: people with fewer financial means or social connections are priced out of the market. With youth unemployment at a record high and social mobility at an all-time low, we simply cannot afford for this broken system to continue.”