Theresa May plans to ban unpaid internships as part of her goal to increase opportunities for working-class families. The government is believed to be considering making employers pay at least the minimum wage to any school leaver or graduate in their offices. At present employers receive many applications for unpaid internships from school leavers and graduates who wish to improve their CVs.
The custom is now widespread in politics and the City, and it has become notoriously prevalent in the media. Unfortunately, this limits opportunities for bright youngsters who are not from affluent middle-class backgrounds. The high cost of living in London and other cities means that many of them are excluded from internships because they do not have family resources to draw upon.
The new plan marks a policy reversal from the Cameron administration. David Cameron blocked efforts by coalition partner Nick Clegg to outlaw the practice. Cameron stated he was "very relaxed" about offering work experience to acquaintances, who included a neighbour. And the former PM admitted that he had himself benefited from a "definite leg-up internship" at his father Ian Cameron's firm of stockbrokers.
On Friday 4 October, Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke is to introduce a Commons' Private Member's Bill to ban unpaid internships. Shelbrooke has campaigned on the issue for some time. However he has been warned by some MPs that they intend to talk this bill out – or in other words to continue talking or 'filibuster' so that the debate runs out of time and the motion is not passed. Shelbrooke has been told that many MPs rely on unpaid staff to service their offices.
Despite this, sources have told the Daily Mail that there is a very strong chance the policy will be adopted by the Government in next year's Queen's Speech. On 29 October, Shelbrooke said: "Unpaid internships are a scourge on social mobility. If we're serious about building a Britain that works for everyone and not just the privileged few, then it's time to end this exploitation of young workers. It's time to ban unpaid internships and make firms pay workers for their labour."