‘ASKING students to work for free is exploitation. Companies which are employing young graduates for free must be threatened with legal action against them,’ Francis Ahanonu President of Coventry University Students Union told News Line yesterday.
He was speaking after the Tory government sent out 550 ‘warning letters’ to companies who use students as free labour, effectively just giving them a slap on the wrist despite the practice being illegal. Ahanonu continued: ‘These students are putting their time, their skill set and their practice into their internship. Even if the company is trying to improve their work experience, they must also provide payment. ‘As soon as they start working for that company as interns, they are no longer graduates, they are employees.
‘While they are doing their internship, the most difficult part for graduates is being able to afford accommodation. If they are not paid they cannot pay their bills or transport costs.
‘That is like putting students in a cage. It means that they would have to do a 9 to 5pm internship and then go for a part-time job in the evening and on the weekend.
‘We students deserve more than what we are given, students must be paid for their time and their efforts.’
The Sutton Trust estimates that there are around 70,000 internships offered each year and that 10,000 graduates are in internships six months after graduation.
It has found that more than 40% of young people who have carried out such a placement have done at least one of them unpaid. The Trust estimated last month that rising rents and inflation mean an unpaid internship now costs a single person living in London at least £1,019 a month, with a cost of £827 in Manchester. In effect they are paying to work!
The Tory government has sent out ‘guidance’ to employers spelling out when they are legally obliged to pay at least the minimum wage.
Tory Business minister Andrew Griffiths said: ‘Employing unpaid interns as workers to avoid paying the National Minimum Wage is against the law and exploitative.’
However not a single company who is making graduates work for free has been prosecuted.