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Unpaid internships break the law but only 12% of managers know it

Just 12% of managers understand that companies may be breaking the law if they offer unpaid placements.

Furthermore, 60% of people who have heard of internships think that companies exploit interns as a source of free labour while 9% think that companies should not pay their interns.

Research released today by social enterprise Internocracy also finds that only one in 10 under-35s who have heard of internships know their rights when it comes to working as an unpaid intern. Yet 84% of employees who have worked in a company that employs interns think that they are a useful addition to their organisation.

"When such low numbers of young people and employers actually understand the rights interns have in the workplace, it’s no wonder that exploitation is rife in popular sectors where competition for experience is fierce," said Internocracy CEO Becky Heath.

"The reality is that, if an organisation takes on someone to do work for them, whether or not they are called an intern, they should be paid at least national minimum wage if they are being given responsibilities and are expected to work set hours. Intern isn’t code for free labour and it’s time companies stopped profiting from exploiting young people."

The research after leading City and PR firms auctioned intern places at their companies to raise funds for the Conservative party. Conservative supporters paid about £3,000 each for their children to have the chance to do work experience at the firms.

"The last few weeks have seen the atrocious act of internships being auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Conservative annual ball. But in reality this is what happens every time an unpaid internship placement is filled: people with fewer financial means or social connections are priced out of the market," added Dom Potter, co-founder of Internocracy.

"With youth unemployment at a record high and social mobility at an all-time low, we simply cannot afford for this broken system to continue."

The research was carried out by YouGov, which surveyed 1,858 adults. Internocracy will be releasing a full report with further figures on The State of Internships in the UK on March 7.