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Recession forces graduates to work without pay

Two thirds of young people feel obliged to work for free because of the recession.

According to a survey of 1,500 students and graduates, 49% have worked for four weeks or more without pay but 67% feel exploited and undervalued by working unpaid.

Jonathan Wood-Harper, a recent graduate from BPP Law School, said: "I have taken on four placements over three years, two of which were paid and two that were unpaid. Despite my efforts I am still unable to secure a training contract and the recession has only worsened my situation. I need to gain as much experience as I can to increase my competitiveness against other law graduates, but to do this I feel I have to continue to offer myself as free labour."

Commenting on the findings, Heather Collier, director of the National Council for Work Experience, which carried the research, said: "It's worrying to hear that so many young people consider themselves as exploited and almost forced to work for free. Nobody should feel that to gain the employability skills they need to land a job, they have to work without pay for a significant length of time. These are difficult to times for everyone, but it's not a green light for businesses to act unethically. If there is any doubt in an employer's mind regarding potential exploitation, it's simple - pay them!"

"It must be clear that if students and graduates are undertaking unpaid internships, it is on a voluntary basis otherwise they may fall foul of the ‘worker's test'. There must also be no legal obligation to either provide or carry out the work. The guidelines depict best practice to protect both parties from exploitation. It works both ways; by taking on people who are willing to work unpaid, it may prevent employers finding the best candidate as they will only attract those who have alternative financial support."