Young People’s Manifesto: An end to unpaid internships

Labour is today launching our young people’s manifesto for young people. The manifesto, A Better Future for Young People, sets out a new commitment to end the scandal of lengthy unpaid internships, by banning unpaid work experience lasting longer than four weeks.

It is only by building on the creativity and talent of the next generation that Britain will succeed in the 21st century. But in too many of our professions, intense competition is leading to an increasing expectation that young people complete a lengthy internship as the route into good jobs.

This situation means that thousands of talented young people who cannot work for free are being locked out of some of the most sought after jobs in professions such as media, the arts, finance and law. Research by the Sutton Trust shows that:

· Almost a third of university graduates working as interns are doing so for no pay.

· There are at least 22,000 unpaid interns in the UK at any one time.

· Taking an unpaid internship can cost an individual more than £900 a month in London or just under £800 a month in Manchester, excluding transport costs.

Short periods of work experience and training provide valuable opportunities for young people, particularly when they are part of vocational training courses or university placements, but it is not right that young people are being asked to work for months or even a year without pay.

This is not only unfair on those who do not have access to money from their parents but is also denying Britain and our businesses the chance to benefit from the talents of all young people.

Today Labour’s manifesto for young Britain, A Better Future for Young People, sets out a new commitment to end the scandal of lengthy unpaid internships, by banning unpaid work experience lasting longer than four weeks. After this period companies would have to pay interns at least the minimum wage.

The Sutton Trust has warned that unpaid internships are “a serious and pressing problem for social mobility” and that, “the requirement to live for long periods without an income makes this vital route to the top professions available, not solely on the basis of talent or hard work, but on the basis of ability to pay.”

Labour will legislate so that no companies can offer unpaid work experience for more than four weeks. While many unpaid internships are already in breach of the National Minimum Wage Act, this is poorly enforced. This legislation would end any confusion by creating a presumption that a young person on an internship is a worker (and is thus eligible to be paid the minimum wage) after four weeks. This will end lengthy unpaid internships and make it easier to enforce the law.

This would not affect people who volunteer for charities and other non-profit organisations or work experience that is part of a government scheme or training course, such as university placements. Volunteering and structured work experience as part of training courses are a valuable part of our social and educational fabric and would be exempt, in line with the existing provisions in the National Minimum Wage Act.

Life has got harder for young people in recent years. The broken promise on tuition fees means graduates start their working lives with more than £44,000 of debt. Young people’s average wages have fallen more than eight per cent since 2010, further than any other group. There has also been a sharp rise in precarious forms of work such as zero-hours contracts, and the disadvantage young people face in the job market relative to adults has got worse.

The publication of Labour’s youth manifesto follows an unprecedented consultation involving thousands of young people through the Shape Your Future campaign. It sets out Labour’s commitments to support the next generation to do better than the last, including measures to:

· Reduce graduate debt, by cutting tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000.

· Ensure that you don’t have to go to university to get on, with a guaranteed high quality apprenticeship for all school-leavers that get the grades.

· Make work pay, by banning exploitative zero-hours contracts, and raising the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 by October 2019.

· Investing in the jobs of the future, by making Britain a world leader in low carbon technology over the next decade, creating a million more green jobs.

· Make sure no young person is left behind, by guaranteeing a paid starter job with training to all those unemployed for more than a year.

· Tackle rising housing costs, by building more homes, helping first time buyers and legislating for longer and more affordable tenancies in the private rented sector.

· Strengthen the voice of young people by giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote.

Read the young people’s manifesto in full here

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