While recruiters watch established talent leave our shores for sunnier horizons, the nation’s youngest jobseekers are the ones paying the highest price during these record times of unemployment. Some have even found themselves in the middle of unhappy bidding wars, where recruiters ask candidates to state the lowest salary they are prepared to work for. At least, though, the offer of a position on the payroll remains on the table. Accepting an internship often means agreeing to work for free and no matter how valuable work experience might be, is it worth it?
MP Hazel Blears has been campaigning to ban the practice for years, maintaining that people who cannot afford to work off-payroll are being denied an opportunity to work.
In the US, a landmark case has just been won by two interns. Proponents say these opportunities wouldn’t exist at all if interns had to be paid, and that to stop outsourcing the work would mean denying access to a great deal of excellent work experience and networking opportunities.
The question at the centre of this debate is: when does ‘work experience’ become ‘work’? And are unpaid internships compromising recruiters’ pool of top talent?