Breaking the Cycle of Unpaid Internships

For most young people in their early 20’s, paving their career is their domineering priority. The overused term “exposure” rings in the newly graduated individuals as they fight for the same internship, with no money and no respect. The graduate market is one of the toughest ones currently to be competing in with an increase in high quality graduates and a lack in jobs. This is where the problem of unpaid internships start to circle.

Laws and Legislation

Unfortunately, UK laws are very vague on how the legal rights surrounding unpaid internships. You must fit within the criteria of how the intern is classed; a worker, a volunteer or an employee. They can only receive employment rights if they complete regular paid work for the employer. This is where it becomes up to the employer’s discretion how they perceive their worker. Corporations tend to use this “grey area” to receive free work from interns in return for experience.

The costly damage of unpaid internships

Since the competition is so high for job positions as a graduate we are often told to take on internships, work experience or placements to give us more experience in the working industry. Whilst we can find this experience valuable and useful for our own benefit as to what cost is it enough? As an intern most corporations class you as a volunteer they have no obligation to pay any wages or even expenses for travels. Most interns will travel for their internship and even take time off their paid employment to allow them to complete their internship. This can become a costly effect that can leave you out of pocket.

When is exposure enough?

Now in this day and age internships and work experience are essential to learning and gaining new skills in the working world. Businesses and corporations live off the term “exposure” to the industry. Claiming that they are doing us a favour by offering us an invaluable opportunity. However, from our invaluable opportunity we will be providing free services with fresh and creative ideas only to be told at the end of the internship to move out of the way for the next lucky candidate. And so the cycle continues. With this, an intern’s motivation and determination will begin to dwindle along with the prospect of being hired by said company. Companies will then lose out on finding their next shining employer as they focus on how disposable their interns are.

How to break the cycle

There is no definitive way to break this cycle without time and effort from everyone. Starting with the government laying out clear laws and legislations regarding internships and protecting interns. Employers need to change their attitude towards interns and graduates need to recognise their own mind sets before taking on an internship. This being said, it is understandable that companies need to protect themselves from rogue interns but if interns are treated better they have the incentive to work better.