Liberal Democrats

F16: No to Unpaid Internships, Yes to Real Opportunities

This motion notes that an estimated 40% of internships are unpaid, which contributes to a cycle of young people from wealthy backgrounds going into highly paid professions.

It calls for all internships of more than four weeks to be paid internships, for placements to be advertised in the same manner as jobs to prevent nepotism.


Young Liberals

Mover: Tara Copeland.

Summation: Jack Worrall.

Conference notes that:

  1. An internship is a fixed period of work, undertaken to develop skills and experience with a view to pursuing a career in a sector.
  2. Under the 1998 National Minimum Wage Act all workers – including interns – are entitled to the minimum wage, unless they are working as volunteers: in practice some voluntary roles are effectively unpaid internships.
  3. In January 2018 The Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity, estimated that over 40% of internships carried out by young people were unpaid. It is estimated that, even with travel costs paid, the minimum living cost of an intern was over £1,000 per month in London and over £800 per month in Manchester.
  4. The 2017 report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility warned that the existence of unpaid internships was a contributing factor to the dominance of young people from wealthy backgrounds in high-paying professions.
  5. Both the Sutton Trust and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, as well as other specialist groups such as the Social Mobility Commission, have called for unpaid internships over four weeks long to be banned.
  6. YouGov polls have shown that 70% of the public support the aforementioned measure, as do two thirds of businesses, with only one in eight businesses opposed.

Conference believes that:

  1. While some individuals with access to savings may benefit from unpaid internships, this is at the expense of the majority without access to such savings, and prevents the latter from having a fair chance to compete for opportunities.
  2. That work experience placements, apart from those that are part of a course leading to a recognised qualification, lasting more than four weeks should be classified as employment.
  3. That having paid and publicly advertised internships, for a period greater than four weeks, will boost the number of people taking up internships and thus diversify the pool of talent.

Conference calls for:

  1. Better enforcement of existing law to ensure that voluntary roles are truly voluntary.
  2. All work experience placements, unless they are part of a course leading to a recognised qualification, that last for more than four weeks to be treated as employment, requiring a contract and the National Minimum Wage.
  3. All internships to be advertised on the same basis that organisations advertise their jobs.

Applicability: Federal. 

Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes. For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 9.

The deadline for amendments to this motion – see page 11 – is 13.00, Monday 4 March. Amendments selected for debate will be printed in Conference Extra and Sunday’s Conference Daily.

The deadline for requests for separate votes is 09.00, Saturday 16 March – see page 8.