In Britain, more than a quarter of internships are unpaid

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

More than a quarter of internships in Britain are unpaid, according to a survey by the educational charity Sutton Trust.

The charity, which surveyed more than 1,000 graduates aged under 29 who had completed an internship, said in its report that most of these unpaid internships could be found in fashion retail (89%), arts (86%), and media (83%). Sutton Trust pointed out that these positions could also end up damaging graduates’ career perspectives and prospects in the long-term, rather than help prepare them for the working world.

“This is a huge social mobility issue. It prevents these young people from getting a foot on the ladder,” said Sutton Trust founder Sir Peter Lampl.

Further highlighting the damage unpaid positions could have on interns, some 70% of respondents said they were doing their fourth or fifth one. It’s perhaps unsurprising that many interns needed additional support — 43% said they were living for free with family and friends, 26% said they were getting additional financial help from their parents, and 27% even took a paid job to fund their internship.

“This suggests that many young people in certain industries are being trapped in cycles of unpaid placements without significant benefits to their career,” said the report.

Sutton Trust’s report was released on the same day as the House of Commons decides on to ban unpaid internships of more than four weeks.

Under current law, interns who work set hours or are given specific tasks by a manager who oversees them must be paid the national minimum wage. But the current guidelines which are provided by HMRC would leave a grey area, said a spokesperson for the Sutton Trust.