AGCAS supports a ban on unpaid work experience or placements longer than four weeks

25 October 2017

On Friday 27 October 2017, there is a second reading of Lord Holmes of Richmond’s Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords, which proposes a ban on unpaid work experience or internships lasting more than four weeks.

The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) supports this proposal. Our members, from higher education careers services across the UK, already have policies in place which do not allow advertising of unpaid internships of longer than four weeks. They take their responsibilities in upholding employment legislation and supporting students very seriously. Services provide support to students to ensure they gain maximum benefit from work experience opportunities and are aware of their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Financial support

In line with NMW legislation, there are exceptions in which such opportunities may be undertaken by students, including where placements form an accredited and assessed part of a student’s studies or volunteer opportunities within the charitable sector. For these situations, many higher education institutions offer financial support or identify bursaries or other funding sources for travel and accommodation. AGCAS members acknowledged that for some employers, such as start-ups, the cost of recruiting students may be challenging; many in these instances will offer bursaries to ensure that they remain compliant with employment legislation.

Widest pool of talent

AGCAS members are aware that some students use their own social currency to organise unpaid internships in hard-to-access sectors, such as the creative industries. Whilst AGCAS member careers services do not endorse such opportunities, they are working with employers in these sectors to promote the benefits of paid internships for accessing the widest pool of talent. Although we support the introduction of a ban on unpaid internships over four weeks, we are aware that a legislative approach will only work if employers do not offer informal internship opportunities. Irrespective of whether they are paid internships, until we have fair and open recruitment to internship opportunities, many of these opportunities will remain unobtainable to those who do not have the right networks.

Given that politics and government are examples of where informal internships are known to have taken place, this legislation provides an opportunity for central government departments to lead by example.