Intern pay is a-ok

Almost 60% of interns are now on a proper salary, rather than just expenses. Bit better than in our day...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 05 Sep 2011
Having spent much of its free time at university perfecting the art of the cuppa at the offices of various companies with nothing more than a nod and a ‘ta’ for its troubles, MT was surprised to learn this morning that almost six in 10 internships undertaken by students over the last four years were paid proper salaries. According to a report by university careers agency Graduate Prospects, while 70% of the 22,000 people it surveyed who had graduated between 2006 and 2010 said they had undertaken some form of work experience, only 43% of those said they hadn’t been paid. A leap forward in intern rights, wethinks…

We don’t have any historical figures to compare this to, so it’s impossible to tell whether the number of paid internships are rising or falling. And in the interests of balance, we should point out that the internships in question were strictly formal arrangements with companies, where the students had a list of duties and were working set hours, rather than the more usual (and frequently unpaid) week making tea and hoping someone will notice you. Which, presumably, means the week of unpaid work experience is flourishing as much as it always was.

Nevertheless, that well over half of placements are paid does suggest that recent campaigns to encourage employers to pay their interns seem to be working. Earlier this year, the TUC published a code of practice for ‘high-quality internships’, which set out rules on hosting placements. The rules stipulated that companies offering a placement of six weeks or more should pay the national minimum wage to their intern ‘if they’re contributing to a company’ and have set working hours.

There is a slight downside to all this championing of intern rights: namely, that businesses which can’t afford to pay an intern (and, at the moment, there are quite a few) are being put off the idea of taking on students for short periods of time. Which means the students themselves miss out on valuable experience. So while its pursuit of fair pay for interns is perfectly laudable, the TUC must avoid throwing the baby out with the bath-water.

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