Why we need a four week limit

A four week limit to unpaid internships will offer legal clarity and fairness 

The Government should introduce a four week limit to unpaid internships. This is the right thing to do, ending long term unpaid internships which price out young people from careers they could be great at, and depriving businesses of talent. 

It would also provide employers with clarity on the law. So it's no surprise that two-thirds (65%) of businesses back this proposal, with only one-in-ten (12%) opposing it. 

The facts

  • YouGov polling shows that two-thirds (65%) of businesses want to see a four week limit introduced. The proposal is supported by businesses of all sizes and in a range of industries.
  • YouGov: 74% of people said that they (or someone from a family like theirs) could not afford to do an unpaid internship in London.
  • YouGov: Just 12% of HR managers understand that companies may be breaking the law if they offer unpaid internships

Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Government Adviser on Social Mobility"Unpaid internships are still far too common and lock out talent from entering a chosen career..."

"...Legislation clearly banning unpaid internships lasting longer than 4 weeks should be introduced."

Businesses support us

Christian May, Institute of Directors: "I think in this day and age it is getting harder and harder to justify a situation where someone essentially works for you for a number of weeks, particularly over a month, and you are simply not paying them."

Richard Irwin, Head of Student Recruitment at PwC: “PwC supports the Intern Aware campaign calling for unpaid internships to last no longer than four weeks.

“Internships help us to diversity our student intake and promote greater social mobility. Not only do they allow us, as an employer, to test talent but they allow young people, who might not have considered a career with us, the opportunity to gain access to professional services. Whilst developing both their employability skills and confidence in a working environment, our programmes aim to help students find out whether they would be suited to this type of career.”

Charlie Mullins OBE, Managing Director at Pimlico Plumbers: “It’s completely reprehensible for companies to expect interns, or anyone else, to work without pay. This type of practice is without doubt exploitation of workers, many of whom are young and inexperienced, and in today’s job market find themselves with little choice but to work for free in the hope that they might be lucky enough to land an actual paid position.

“This is completely unacceptable behaviour, and that’s why I’m backing Intern Aware’s call for all interns to be paid for any work period that lasts more than four weeks.”

Karan Hutchinson, Group HR Director at AXA UK: “AXA UK is happy to support the campaign to introduce a four week limit to unpaid internships. Such a move would ensure a fair opportunity for everyone as they embark on their careers and allow businesses such as ours to harness the talent and skills of young people in today’s job market.”

Jonathan Refoy, European Corporate Affairs Director at CH2M HILL: "Internships play a vital role helping young people get experience of the workplace, develop essential skills and provide an essential pathway in to work especially for people who may not have wider social and family support in the early stages of their entry into the workplace. Internships can greatly help social mobility.

“Interns make significant contributions to the companies they work for. CH2M HILL fully supports the Intern Aware campaign and encourage other businesses to ensure that all internships over a four week period are paid."

Francis Ingram, Chief Executive at the Public Relations Consultants Association: "For those looking to abuse the basic right of being paid for the work you carry out, the method has always been obvious: rely on HMRC's grey area of a "worker". We know what a worker is and those peddling the unpaid labour myth to young people know as well. It's been far too easy for far too long. This 4 week limit is a welcome step forward. It puts HMRC on the side of young people and puts the remaining unscrupulous organisations firmly in our sights.”

Rajeeb Day, CEO at Enternships: “Whilst we advocate paid internships at all times we also welcome the move to restrict any unpaid internships which may take place to a maximum of 4 weeks to provide employers with greater clarity on what is acceptable and to protect the interests of interns. In doing so we can ensure that interns are only hired on their ability to do the job rather than their ability to work for free."

Dr Lee Elliot Major, Director of Development and Policy at the Sutton Trust: “Paying all interns who work for over a month the minimum wage would significantly improve access to these placements for those from more modest backgrounds, offering them a stepping stone into many coveted jobs, thus increasing social mobility.”

This proposal has been drafted by a leading employment barrister, and could be easily implemented as secondary legislation (meaning the Government could choose to introduce the limit tomorrow).

Are you one of the two-thirds of businesses that support fair internships and would like to consider supporting this proposal? Please email us for more information at info@internaware.org.