Liberal Democrats say NO to unpaid internships

The Sutton Trust estimates 40% of young interns are working for free. Many of them are probably entitled to the National Minimum Wage. But a loophole in the law lets employers pass their roles off as “voluntary” unpaid internships.

They’re common in the modern job market – I actually interviewed for one after I graduated. What would I get in return for 40 hours a week of work? Travel and lunch expenses.

That’s little better than nothing, compared to my £1,000 a month living costs. I’d have been living entirely off my savings, or had to dip into the bank of Mum and Dad.

Now, when I was applying for jobs, I also applied for a lot of paid positions. But I found that these so-called “entry level” jobs all required previous experience in the field. Experience that I could only have obtained by working for free.

And therein lies the problem. Long-term unpaid internships price out people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They take away social mobility from all but the most well off – who don’t even need it.

Many internships aren’t even offered through regular channels. Knowing someone high up in an organisation can get you that crucial first placement, proving that

Something has to change. Liberal Democrats demand better for young people.

I’m delighted that we’ve just passed policy to combat this at conference in York. Our motion calls for:

* a ban on unpaid internships of more than 4 weeks

* a crackdown on roles that aren’t really voluntary being passed off as such

* an end to nepotism in the job market – for all internships to be advertised properly through the same channels as paid work

You can read the whole motion here:

Read now

From climate change to the housing crisis and our rigged job market, my generation’s received a raw deal from political leaders. I’m pleased that our party is committing to making things fair – this policy is a step in the right direction.

Tara Copeland is Policy Officer for the Young Liberals, the party’s youth and student wing. You can find out more about their work here: