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Unpaid internships branded slave labour as Lords debate a ban

Conservative peer Chris Holmes speaking in the House of Lords today about unpaid internships


By Jorgie McHale-Ramsell

UNPAID INTERNSHIPS have been compared to modern slavery in a debate in the House of Lords this morning.

Lord Mitchell told the chamber: “Unpaid interns are slaves – it’s our duty to stop it.”

And Baroness Stowell of Beeston said: “Our young people are being exploited through false promises and it’s not good enough.”

But Baroness Karren Brady of Knightsbridge disputed claims that unpaid work experience is a problem.

She said: “Work experience offers a portal to opportunity for individuals to see if the career they’ve thought about is right for them.”

If the bill is passed companies will legally be required to pay any individual who has worked for the company after their first four weeks.

The private member’s bill was introduced by Chris Holmes, who says leaving young people in unpaid positions stunts social mobility.

Lord Holmes of Richmond said: “If work experience is available only for those who can afford to work for free then it entrenches privilege and limits social mobility.

“It leaves young people unable to get a job as they don’t have enough experience and they can’t get this experience as it’s unaffordable for them to work for free.”

A report released this week by the Social Mobility Commission found that 72 per cent of the public support a change in the law, leading to the hashtag #payinterns to trend on Twitter.

Jem Collins, journalist and editor for RightsInfo, a website for young people to build knowledge on their human rights within the workplace, was involved in the Twitter campaign.

She said: “If you’re doing a job, you should get paid for it, simple as that.

“This is exceptionally bad in industries like journalism, where people think they can get away with offering you exposure, while they’d never consider doing the same thing to plumber or manual worker.

“Only the richest in our society are able to take up on these opportunities which has a knock on society, meaning the industry will always lack representation.”

Hannah Jones, account manager at Freshwater UK, who works in the PR and event industry said: “I worked multiple unpaid internships throughout 2011 and 2013.

“I had zero self-worth, lived in financial fear and was put in awful situations.”

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission said: “It is a modern scandal which must end. It is time to consign unpaid internships to history.”

What do you think?