This week, a bill intended to ban the use of unpaid internships longer than 4 weeks is to be read in parliament. The Sutton Trust has long supported the banning of this practice, as it privileges those with wealth and connections over lower and middle-income young people- particularly in competitive industries like politics, journalism and the creative industries. Previous Sutton Trust research has found that 70% of internships offered are unpaid and 27% of young graduates have completed an unpaid placement.

New figures show:

  • In London, the living cost of undertaking an unpaid internship is £1,093 per month (or £1,011 if an intern’s travel is covered), and £905 in Manchester (£843 excluding travel)
  • There has been a drastic fall in the number of internships available due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 61% of employers have cancelled some or all of their internships and work experience placements this year. Almost half (48%) also expect there to be fewer opportunities available over the next year.

Our Research and Policy Officer Erica Holt-White has blogged about the bill, and the issues facing young people seeking work experience in the pandemic here.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“Unpaid internships prevent less well-off young people from accessing a valuable opportunity to gain experience of working. Our research has shown the average cost of taking up an internship in London is over £1,000 a month. At a time when the job market for young people has been badly hit, and internships are at a premium, this is a real problem for social mobility.

The laws surrounding internships should be changed so that any over four weeks should be paid. We welcome today’s bill calling for the banning of unpaid internships that last for more than four weeks, so that these interns receive at least the National Minimum Wage. Such roles should also be openly advertised so that all young people have the opportunity to get an internship”.

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