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Unpaid internships

(127 Posts)
Sunshine55 Wed 12-Nov-14 09:40:55

Am I being unreasonable to think that unpaid internships should be banned. It seems a lot of companies just use this as an excuse for unpaid workers and once their contract has finished they get someone else in for unpaid work its just not fair.

zerotolerancezone Wed 12-Nov-14 09:41:39


Following Caitlin Moran on Twitter?

Gen35 Wed 12-Nov-14 09:44:21

Yabu, if you are being exploited, leave. Internships otherwise can still be a good way of gaining experience and ultimately, a job. people being exploited can publicise it on social media etc and companies can be shamed into not exploiting people...

PausingFlatly Wed 12-Nov-14 09:47:48

Working in an entry level job for minimum wage can also be a good way of gaining experience...

And doesn't exclude people who need to work for a living, not just for experience.

Mehitabel6 Wed 12-Nov-14 09:50:12

Absolutely- it is heading that way as it is realised it is only for the rich. My son needed one to gain experience, but it would have had to be London and we simply couldn't afford it. There may have been other cities but all out of the question.

Mehitabel6 Wed 12-Nov-14 09:51:07

I live very rurally- no way he could live at home and do it.

springalong Wed 12-Nov-14 09:54:32

It is not also for just young people - I am retraining in my late 40's (chartered accountant, 30 years work history) and yet the expectation that I will work for free to gain "experience" is shocking. It is not a good trend in this country.

PausingFlatly Wed 12-Nov-14 09:58:08

Internships are bad for the country, not just the individual.

If the requirement for entry to a job becomes the ability to live without income for a year, then recruitment will be from a much smaller pool - determined by wealth not ability.

And that's never good long term.

Of course, if you are rich and a bit dim, an internship will be just what you want. Gets rid of all that competition from those pesky brighter kids...

PausingFlatly Wed 12-Nov-14 10:00:55

We don't even expect students to live without income - hence student loans.

But once they're working, they can't even claim JSA or Income Support because... they're working. Just not being paid.

Preciousbane Wed 12-Nov-14 10:04:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BrendaBlackhead Wed 12-Nov-14 10:05:46

Hasn't it always been like this, though? In times past you had to pay to work in some professions as they were training you.

And in very "trendy" jobs such as fashion/advertising the places were stuffed with sons/daughters of clients. I once worked in an ad agency and up turned the ds of one of the directors of the major client. He was truly awful. He wasn't paid, but then again he didn't do any work to merit payment. He was always buggering off to "the caaaaantry".

Not fair though, I agree. It's very tough if you don't live within hailing distance of London (or big city of choice) as accommodation and even rail fares are too punitive for an intern or even someone on starting salary.

LilAnnieAmphetamine Wed 12-Nov-14 10:09:53

Even the 'paid' ones aren't accessible for a lot of young people (or people of any age really) unless they are paid at least at minimum wage.

You do know that MN operates by using a lot of interns that are 'paid?' I would like to know exactly how much MNHQ pays them. They don't pay their local editors even though their supposedly 'freelance' status conflicts with HMRC definitions of what freelance is -HMRC have confirmed this to me. There are a LOT of businesses that basically would go under if they had to start paying everybody who worked for them, including the writers that write for free.

Is it minimum wage HQ?

PausingFlatly Wed 12-Nov-14 10:10:57

No, it hasn't always been like this.

I worked in a an industry thought very "desirable" (god knows why, pay was shite).

Entry-level positions were keenly fought over. But we still paid people for working.

MajesticWhine Wed 12-Nov-14 10:11:29

It's a big problem. I was unpaid whilst working for the NHS, training in a health profession. It is very commonplace, they call it an "honorary contract". The NHS is on its knees anyway, and couldn't afford to pay all those people in training. I treated a lot of patients too. So the NHS is effectively being supported through unpaid workers. I had to be supported financially through my training, through savings, and DH income, so there is also the problem that it's disadvantageous to other potential trainees who couldn't afford it.

shakemysilliesout Wed 12-Nov-14 10:12:28

I think it's mad we have a minimum wage yet it's legal to expect people to work for free!! Everyone should get at least minimum wage.

MsVestibule Wed 12-Nov-14 10:12:52

It's the "if you're being exploited, leave" attitude that I can't stand. It appears that the only way into some areas (fashion, etc) is by doing an internship. The only people who can afford to work for nothing are either people who are independently wealthy (unlikely that a young person has earned and saved enough to live for a year) or have parents/family wealthy enough to support them for a year. Ergo, people of average means find it very difficult to break into it.

How could anybody possibly consider that fair?

zerotolerancezone Wed 12-Nov-14 10:18:35

I thought MNHQ internships were paid?

BrendaBlackhead Wed 12-Nov-14 10:19:37

As I said I think one of the main problems is that a lot of wealthy young people live on the spot. I could probably support ds in an internship in London if we lived in Fulham. But we do not and I could not afford to help him with accommodation costs nor the cost of a train fare to London.

The dd of someone I know has just spent a week at the Old Bailey and another week in a chambers in High Holborn. Now that sort of opportunity would not be accessible for Lucy from Lincoln or Sam from Swindon.

WooWooOwl Wed 12-Nov-14 10:22:57

I can see both sides of this.

Unpaid internships are almost impossible to obtain for young people who's parents are unwilling or unable to financially support them, but at the same time, just because someone turns up at a workplace each day and receives training and gains valuable experience does not automatically mean that the work they are providing for the company is worth a wage.

What it comes down to is whether the interns are more valuable to the companies or the companies are more valuable to the interns. I expect it varies across companies so there is no definitive answer.

I don't agree that internships should be banned, because no one is owed a living from private companies who can make whatever private arrangements they like, and no one is owed their perfect career choice. People aren't forced into doing them.

TsukuruTazaki Wed 12-Nov-14 10:26:28

My friend who works in publishing had to work for free for about a year in various internships before she got a decent paid job. Same goes for friends in the museums and heritage sectors. I remember a careers talk at university where we were told not to consider work in international development, NGOs etc unless prepared to work for free for at least a year! Seems a widespread expectation across certain industries.

I think any internships of say 1 month + should definitely be paid as most people can't afford to work for free and the culture of unpaid long term internships is a huge barrier to many people.

However I think very short internships (more like work experience placements really) are often more for the candidates' benefit and don't really add much value for the company. I would see a couple of weeks to a month as being something to let a candidate get a better idea of the job or the industry and gain some experience for their CV. I don't really object as much to these being free as many employers would just stop offering short placements if they had to pay for them.

That said, I work in law and it's common practice to pay students around £250 a week during vacation placements. They don't generally do much work that is of value to the firms but paying for the placements is just seen as part of graduate recruitment costs. I do think it's fair to pay them as this ensures that the best candidates can come on the schemes regardless of where in the country they are from or their financial background. This is obviously good for firms as they get access to the best people and not just those who can afford to spend a few weeks in London or live there anyway.

FloraFox Wed 12-Nov-14 10:30:05

If interns weren't valuable to companies, companies wouldn't take them on.

Internships contribute to social inequality which affects everyone. People not being "owed" their perfect career choice is miles away from some careers being completely inaccessible to people from average backgrounds / outside London.

Callani Wed 12-Nov-14 10:31:45

I have a lot of friends who have completed unpaid internships and the main problem that I see with them is that they never actually turn into a paid job.

One friend completed a 3 month internship for a publishing company and did some translation work for them in that time. Afterwards they asked her to do another month translating for them, a job that normally costs a lot of money but my friend thought that if she proved herself she'd be hired by the department.

Once that month was up (and when they still hadn't paid a single penny for 4 months of her time) they asked to extend her internship for a further 2 months. She told them she'd work for them as a contractor but not for free any more and they weren't interested - despite her work being considered publishable quality. I shudder to think how much this undercuts professional translators who have to compete with those who work for free.

Viviennemary Wed 12-Nov-14 10:39:34

Perhaps working for free should be restricted to charities or not for profit companies or institutions such as schools and hospitals which aren't run for profit. (Hoepfully!) I think work experience for private companies is OK but should be restricted to say two weeks or a month. at the very longest.

KatyMac Wed 12-Nov-14 10:43:48

I suggested on another website that DD was going to try & volunteer in her chosen career last summer; someone on-line said that she shouldn't because it devalues the work the paid people do.

I explained that I wanted her to see the reality of the job rather than her idealised view

She was immediately offered a job which she held down for the whole summer & she got an amazing 'public' reference on that website at the end. She also saved up enough to fund her spending money at college.

However, if this person hadn't offered her a job I would probably have still looked for voluntary work for her as actually working is invaluable.

But after training I think paid work is the only way to go

PourquoiTuGachesTaVie Wed 12-Nov-14 10:45:40

YANBU, I'd also like to extend that to apprenticeships. My dh is on an apprentice wage for the next year. He works bloody hard and as it's a full time role there is no room to do part time work to top up his earnings. Maybe 16 year olds who are lucky enough to have supportive parents can manage on £2.73 per hour but how on earth is anyone else supposed to?

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