Roughly one-fifth of British companies now enjoy the cost-free benefits of unpaid intern labor, with few claiming knowledge of the practice’s potential illegality, a new study says.

With millions of American college students performing unpaid internships in recent years, the practice is becoming an increasingly accepted part of university programming, prompting one critic to remark: “Colleges have turned internships into a prerequisite for the professional world but have neither ensured equal access to these opportunities, nor insisted on fair wages for honest work.” –ARK

The Guardian:

Almost a fifth of British businesses have admitted to using unpaid interns to “get work done more cheaply” and prop up company profits during the recession, according to a new survey.

The research, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Internocracy — a social enterprise that develops work experience schemes for employers — found that 17% of UK businesses had taken on interns to use as a cheap source of labour, while 95% of the 218 UK managers who responded agreed that interns were “useful to their organisation”.

The Internocracy study also found that only 12% of company managers and 10% of young people knew unpaid internships could be illegal under employment law.

“It’s a real shame that young people don’t know their employment rights,” said Internocracy’s chief executive, Becky Heath. “Conversely it is disappointing that businesses don’t understand what interns are worth and the new talent, energy and enthusiasm they bring to the workplace.”

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