Chris Hares, Campaigns Manager at Intern Aware, offers his predictions for 2015 when it comes to internships.
In the years that Intern Aware has campaigned for fair internships, we’ve seen our share of ups and downs. 2014 was a good year, with more enforcement being offered, more positive efforts from businesses and some strong political outcomes such as the Ten Minute Rule Bill in May. But what about 2015? Here are a few of my predictions and hopes for this year, as we edge closer to a General Election.
Parties and businesses calling for an end to unfair internships
In 2014, we've seen more businesses than ever coming out to support paid internships and a tightening of the law to protect interns. Businesses such as KMPG, PwC, Pimlico Plumbers and AXA have all publicly supported our calls for a four week limit, as well as industry groups such as the PRCA and the Institute of Directors. This year we want to see even more businesses and groups coming forward to support our proposals, which have the backing of 65% of British businesses.
In December, we also saw front page headlines that Labour were planning to tighten the law to end unfair internships once and for all. This is great news, but we have always been proud of our efforts for cross-party support. So over the coming months, we hope to see the other major political parties on all sides backing our proposals for a four week limit and offering the protection that interns should have been receiving for years.
Workshops with universities to help educate people on their rights as interns
Last year, we ran several fantastic workshops with students at a number of universities. These were designed to help give people a chance to ask questions about internships, share their problems and to inform them about what the law is and how they can get paid for their work. We had some brilliant feedback and this year, we want to run even more sessions. Want your university to offer this? Get your careers service to drop us a message on firstname.lastname@example.org, or get in touch for an information pack. Our prediction is to run these sessions at more than ten universities this year!
More people coming forward to challenge rogue employers
We all know that it can be very tough to take on your employer when you are an intern.
People fear they will lose their references, or even future opportunities. But there are more and more people coming forward looking to claim back their pay from their unpaid internships. We had some big wins in 2014, forcing more employers to pay their interns. This year, we hope to see even more people coming forward, knowing their rights and challenging rogue employers. Think you might want to claim back your pay? Get in touch!
Even more reporting to HMRC...keep it coming!
Last year, we reported hundreds of unfair internship adverts to HMRC for investigation. This year, we want to report even more. If you see an unfair internship that you think could be illegal then please send it to us, and we will try and follow it up as best we can. The more that businesses see that what they are doing is wrong, the more will be inclined to pay for the hard work being done. After all, it is the law!
Companies still trying to get around the law
Despite the big shift in the number of companies that are paying their interns, there are still approximately a quarter of employers with interns that are not paying them. Whilst most business have been paying interns, and even 65% supporting of more protection for interns, some still think it is OK to take on illegal unfair interns. We will be working as hard as ever to try and get these businesses to change their practice, and hopefully political parties will pledge to tighten up the law, making it much harder for businesses to get away with it!
HMRC need to up their efforts on enforcing the National Minimum Wage
Despite the large number of unfair internship adverts that we reported to HMRC for investigation, there was still only limited efforts to enforce the law. We had a handful of cases announced by the Government, with one major internship case unable to be named publicly. This year, we want to see more from those with the responsibility for enforcement, helping to properly crackdown on unfair internships.
The unheard thousands who cannot work for free
We often get asked for case studies of people who have done unpaid internships, those that are prepared to talk to the media about their experiences. We owe the people that are prepared to do this a huge debt of thanks. But we sometimes don’t pay enough attention to the thousands of young people who simply cannot begin to consider a career path that starts with an unpaid internship. Whilst those that undertake unpaid internships are left with a sense of injustice, those that cannot even consider them are simply left behind. This year, we want to hear from those people as well. Can’t afford to get into a career because of unpaid internships? Please tell your story to us and help to change it!
This year we saw a number of shameless employers that had unpaid interns. Take the example of Casa Morada, a boutique interior designer who had a rolling stream of unfair internships. When challenged by a local student newspaper, the owner gave a reply so rude, that it made national press. After a pitched battle with students on social media, Casa Morada finally took down the adverts and agreed to taking a copy of Intern Aware's 'Best Practice for Businesses' guide!
In 2015, we hope to see less and less cases like this one!
With your help, we think that 2015 could be the year that we finally end unfair internships. For years, we have known the damage that unfair internships do to the chances of young people who cannot afford to work for free.
Thank you for all your support last year, and please do keep telling us about your experiences, sharing adverts you’ve seen and helping to change this practice.
2015 will be a busy and exciting year, so let’s make it the year of paid internships!