Blears’ Parliamentary Bill looks to make advertising unpaid internships illegal

Former cabinet minister Hazel Blears MP yesterday [5 December] read a bill to the House of Commons that seeks to “prohibit the advertising of long-term unpaid internships” and further regulate conditions of employment for paid internships.
Thu, 6 Dec 2012
Former cabinet minister Hazel Blears MP yesterday [5 December] read a bill to the House of Commons that seeks to “prohibit the advertising of long-term unpaid internships” and further regulate conditions of employment for paid internships.

The aim of the bill is that, alongside the wider campaign for fairness around interns, and a harder line on the matter being taken by HMRC, “we can gradually see the end of them altogether”, a parliamentary assistant to Blears tells Recruiter.Blears (pictured right) has support from a cross-party mix of over 40 MPs, although only 11 can be named as supporting it in official documentation, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is also “broadly supportive”.

Felix Mitchell, the director of fully-paid internships recruitment agency Instant Impact, goes one step further and says the company “whole-heartedly supports” the move. “If a company has invested the time and money to advertise a vacancy they are clearly looking for a productive new recruit whose role is a priority, as opposed to offering an opportunity for work experience,” he adds.

Mitchell continues: “If an employer is taking on responsibility in a business then they should be rewarded for their time… Businesses should be expected to shoulder the cost of their labour and not expect an intern to make crippling financial sacrifices.”

Kate Murray, a senior careers consultant at the University of London’s careers service The Careers Group, tells Recruiter: “The Careers Group’s position is that we don’t advertise illegal unpaid internships” – and points out the full policy of the service available on its website, which makes some select exceptions to the National Minimum Wage Act.

But she also notes that with internships – especially paid ones – few and far between, and students keen to secure experience, they will tell students that if they want to take up such opportunities, “ultimately it’s up to you [the student]”.

Blears says: “Unpaid internships are a modern day scandal. They allow unscrupulous employers to exploit the hopes and dreams of young people desperate to get a foothold on the career ladder. The only people who can afford to work for free are those with money behind them or who live in London. It is a nonsense that it’s still lawful to advertise unpaid internships, which are unlawful under National Minimum Wage legislation. It is time we put an end to this practise, and today was an important first step in our campaign to end the culture of unpaid internships for good.”

The assistant from Blears’ office tells Recruiter that the proposal doesn’t require “massive new swathes of legislation…[it’s] really just tightening a loophole”, and that the second reading will come on 1 February 2013.

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