On Sunday, October 30th, East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds appeared on Peston on Sunday on the ITV channel in order to discuss the potential upcoming reform for the laws on unpaid internships with the aim of enabling professional mobility and affordable living for young professionals in the United Kingdom, which is being supported by Prime Minister Theresa May in an effort to equalise the British class system and growth.
This topic was also raised previously under the coalition government, when Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke about how if there is a “greater justice in the way in which we administer money… is a recipe for a more liberal education system which gives all children… real head start in life,” targeting the tendency for paid internships to go to those whose parents either have the connections within the industry or the finances to better fund their child to gain greater opportunities.
Ultimately, the amendment suggested how rather than bringing the more privileged to a different level, society might elevate others to the same high level of potential when the same standard of effort is committed to the cause or profession.
Whilst the amendment was paused for the duration of Clegg’s deputation, it has remained a widely debated topic within the student and young professional communities, especially with the rising coverage of the topic across various media outlets. The apparent rise in awareness and engagement with the younger generation may show a real shift in political positions, as it is a long-standing demographic which has shown little commitment to voting and promoting policies. Professional analysis company Ipsos MORI notes the estimated six per cent shift from 2005 to 2015 of 18-24 year old voters, suggesting the growth within that voters demographic.
Now, Jeremy Corbyn considers the same debate in his run as leader of the Labour party in their “Living Wage Week” initiative, considering how “decent wages, good secure jobs and conditions, that’s how you get a better economy, a more productive economy; that’s how you get a stronger society,” and thus considering the productive elements of offering every member of society equal opportunity and base pay.
As the laws presently stand, internships have differing regulatory structures to other professional platforms such as apprenticeships, and are consequently subject to various challenges when brought to court. Currently, the Sutton Trust estimates there are over 30,000 internships in the UK, over half of which are unpaid. InternAware describes on their website the current laws and how it appears as though, in all technicalities, any intern who is “personally providing a service” or “working under a contract, whether implied or express” may be liable for funding.
There seems to be significant benefits to unpaid interns through this system, and often ways to cover one’s living costs whilst involved. For example, All About Careers details the ways in which young professionals might seek flexible hours and part-time work alongside their internships as an alternative method of support whilst they make industry connections and gain experience.
Whilst it certainly may pose ethical debate to hire unpaid interns, many companies may rely on this system in order to grow, or as part of a wider hiring system, and the experience which young professionals may gain may be a contributing factor as to why so many turn to unpaid opportunities when paid internships are unavailable. With the shifting policies in the United Kingdom following Brexit as well as the voice given to young professionals by social media, it seems as though this may be a topic, which remains a high priority throughout May’s term as Prime Minister.
How may society enable individuals from financially diverse backgrounds to work together in equality?