Four in ten interns still aren’t receiving the minimum wage, according to research released today by Monster.co.uk, which questioned over 200 young people who have completed an internship in the past 12 months.
The findings show that over a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents only received financial support to cover expenses during their placement, while 14 per cent did not receive any payment at all for their efforts. With employment regulations stating that working interns should be paid at least the minimum wage, the study suggests that many employers could be breaking the law.
When questioning employers, the Monster study found that more than a fifth (22 per cent) of those who employ interns admit to paying them less than the minimum wage, despite the fact that the majority (84 per cent) claim to understand the law regarding this issue. The research comes just months after HM Revenue and Customs launched an inquiry to investigate 100 companies believed to be breaking the law through their use of unpaid interns.
Andrew Sumner, Monster Managing Director, UK & Ireland, says: “A healthy future economy relies on the investment businesses make in young people today. In such a tough economy, it is simply not acceptable that there are still UK companies making interns work for free. Young people from all backgrounds should have access to the valuable opportunities offered by internships, but the truth is that swathes of the population simply can’t afford to work for nothing. There’s clearly more work to be done to ensure interns are not exploited.”
However it is not all bad news and there is evidence that many employers are running effective and beneficial internship programmes.
The research reveals that almost two thirds (64 per cent) of interns are given a structured work plan with 71 per cent receiving formal training. In addition, 86 per cent of interns say they have gained skills that will genuinely help them with their career and more than nine in ten (92 per cent) say their internship was challenging and met their expectations.
From the employer perspective, 87 per cent of those questioned believe that interns make a positive impact to overall business and almost all respondents (98 per cent) say that they provide interns with valuable skills for their career. Almost three quarters (74 per cent) take on interns with a view to hiring them permanently.
Mr Sumner continues: “When run well, internships can be hugely beneficial for all involved providing young people with valuable skills and experience, while giving employers access to fresh, young brains and potential workers for the future. To make the most of them, employers should treat interns like any other employee, following a rigorous recruitment process and thoroughly planning their time at the company.”
Last April Monster became the first large recruitment site to pledge to remove adverts for roles that exploit young jobseekers.
Mr Sumner adds: “At Monster we do everything we can to ensure young jobseekers are not exploited. We provide free advice to make employers aware of the legalities surrounding unpaid internships and to ensure jobseekers know what to expect from these placements.”
Hazel Blears, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, who launched a paid internship scheme in Parliament and has been leading the campaign against unpaid internships in the House of Commons, comments on the findings:
“The survey confirms that internships can be really useful for both young people and employers.The fact that nearly nine out of ten employers believe interns make a positive impact on their business is telling. Unfortunately many of these employers remain happy to get something for nothing when it comes to paying interns and the survey shows that they knowingly breach the rules around the National Minimum Wage.
“I passionately believe that these valuable opportunities should be open to all, not just to those from better off backgrounds who can afford to work for free. I want to see more employers taking a stand against unpaid internships as Monster has done, but I also want to see the Government doing far more to take action against those which continue to break the law.”
Tanya de Grunwald, interns’ rights campaigner and founder of careers blog Graduate Fog says:
“We are making progress in the fight for a fairer deal for interns – but Monster’s new stats show there is still a long way to go. Campaigners have suspected for some time that the true scale of the intern problem is being vastly under-reported – and these figures suggest we are right. Unpaid (or very low-paid) interns are the hidden army of young workers keeping supplying free labour to many UK businesses, both big and small.
“It’s interesting that a large proportion of employers claim they understand the law on interns – yet still don’t pay them. Does this mean they don’t really understand the law – or that they know it’s illegal to have unpaid interns, but they have them anyway? It’s not clear. What is clear is that much more must be done to raise awareness about the law on interns. And then that law much be firmly enforced. Monster’s leadership on this issue is extremely welcome among young jobseekers.”
Other key findings include:
- Large companies (with over 50 employees) are more likely to take on interns than smaller companies (51 per cent compared to 19 per cent)
- The top three reasons why companies do not take on interns are:
- Not enough work to keep them busy (52 per cent)
- No resource to properly nurture them (32 per cent)
- Cannot afford to pay them(26 per cent)
- More than one in ten of the interns questioned (13 per cent) heard about the placement via friends or family