Not paying for work experience must end, says Labour

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Small businesses must pay the young people they take on for work experience/internships at least the minimum wage, according to Labour leader Ed Miliband.

In a speech last Friday he criticised firms – particularly those in the PR, media, fashion and law sectors – for taking staff on, but not giving them the pay and perks they deserve.

He said: 'Putting careers in highly prized jobs – in the arts, media, fashion, finance and law – out of reach for huge numbers of highly able young people. It’s not fair. It’s not right.'

According to Intern Aware, a campaign group calling for a ban on unpaid work experience, a typical three-month internship in London would cost a young person £3,000 in travel, accommodation and food, leaving them available only to those who have supportive parents.

Despite non-payment for work experience being illegal, Intern Aware say unpaid internships have proliferated because it is left to HMRC to issue fines, and firms are still able to use a grey area of what constitutes a ‘worker.’

Labour says it will remove this loophole, and the pledge has received support from the body that represents the PR industry.

Francis Ingham, director general at the Public Relations Consultants Association said: 'We know what a worker is and those peddling the unpaid labour myth to young people know what it as well. This pledge is a game-changer: one that will hopefully resonate across all parties and one that follows significant work by the PR industry to solve a problem that has blighted young people for far too long.'