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NUS and Intern Aware launch unpaid internships whistleblowing hotline

Thursday 12 February 2015 NUS News

NUS and Intern Aware Today, we are announcing plans of a national investigation into the practice of unpaid internships with our partners Intern Aware.

The findings will support our New Deal general election manifesto and Intern Aware’s primary recommendation - calls for the next government to introduce and enforce legislation that work experience of over four weeks should be paid at least national minimum wage by 2020.

Students, parents, and members of the general public are urged to call a confidential hotline, to enable us to build a list of name and shame companies that use unpaid interns. We will then release the information publically in the weeks preceding the general election as a challenge to all parties to include firm commitments to tackle the practice in their manifestos.

NUS President Toni Pearce said:

“We know that it is really difficult for people to come forward as they may feel that their own career could be jeopardised by naming and shaming. However we need to stand together to tackle the practice of unpaid internships, and I would urge everyone to remember we will treat all callers confidentially."

Chris Hares, Campaigns Manager at Intern Aware said:

“Political parties of all sides need to get a grip on this situation, and act in the best interests of young people and businesses alike. In fact, two-thirds of businesses have said they would welcome clarity in the law on internships. Most recognise that unpaid internships are actually damaging to businesses, as they only allow them to select talented young people from a limited pool of people who can afford to work for free.

“A step change could be achieved by a four week limit, which is supported by NUS as well as a range of business leaders, universities and organisations.”

The facts about unpaid internships

Last year, the Sutton Trust estimated that one-third (31 per cent) of graduate interns are unpaid (2014), with an expenses-only internship in London costing a young person £926 a month.

In the same year YouGov polling revealed that only 4 per cent of the population believe that they, or someone in a family like theirs, could definitely afford to do an unpaid internship.

Last year too an Ipsos MORI poll showed that 85 per cent of people believe that interns should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

Kings College literature student Ishani took a month long internship with a prolific national magazine and deems internships classist, saying:

“The only people who can afford to do it realistically are either those with savings, or those with relatively rich parents who are willing to give up that money.”

You can read Ishani's story here.