‘I won’t work for free’: the interns who fought back
Graduates (and their parents) face growing costs in the early years of work. Some are turning to the courts, says Sam Meadows
Graduate debt is rising sharply. Wages are falling. And the proportion of graduates in “nongraduate” te jobs is creeping towards one e in two. Internships – very often subsidised by parents s who give their offspring cash or pay for accommodation – are e now a standard route into the he workplace. The number offered by major graduate employers has grown by 50pc since 2010. And, says the Institute e for Public Policy Research, almost half f of those employers state that without that at experience graduate applicants have little to no hope of securing an actual job. But now there is evidence of a fightback. Graduates are finding that it is possible to claim ba back thousands of pounds in unpaid unpa wages for internships t they carried out as long as six years ago – even if they sign signed a contract agreeing to work for free. Chris Jarvis, for example, successfully claimed £4,600 from Sony, the them multinational technology techn and entertainment ente giant, gian after working wo unpaid for three months. m Unpaid internships in are ar illegal in Frustrated about the exploitation of young workers, Asher Dresner and Jenny Imhoff set up Howbox to offer advice on workers’ rights. Mr Dresner said that, in almost all cases, an employer should pay you for an internship.
“The default position is that if you aren’t getting paid then that’s wrong. Some people think it’s OK for internships to be unpaid. It isn’t,” he said.
There are a handful of exceptions, but in most cases you will be entitled to at least the national minimum wage – currently £7.05 an hour for 21-24-year-olds and £7.50 above that. The rates will increase to £7.38 and £7.83 an hour in April.
If someone is under 16, working for a charity and getting paid expenses, or the worker is a student and the work is part of their course, unpaid work is legal.
Harder to judge is a little-known rule that means employers can also ask you to work for free if it “doesn’t control your work or benefit from it”. Mr Dresner said this situation was very rare, as in almost all cases the employer would exert some form of control over the work.
Chris Jarvis claimed back £4,600 in wages