Grayling defends new London work experience scheme – but are interns replacing paid employees?

Chris Grayling defended the Government’s position on work experience in a speech at the right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange on Tuesday, announcing a new project in London making young people do free work for their benefits, and criticising the “Polly Toynbee left” (a rather dismissive way of referring to all of us plus most other thinking people).

As you may know, government schemes to promote employment are exempt from the minimum wage, but this should generate lay a moral and economic duty to use this exemption carefully. However, such care has so far been sadly lacking.

I’m becoming increasingly worried that interns/ work experience may be replacing the following: existing paid employment, the creation of new permanent paid jobs, and agency worker placements.

I’ve recently received a dossier from the shopworkers’ union USDAW setting out how this is happening in the retail sector and I am getting a fair number of letters from people who say that they have been made redundant only to find that their role has been filled by an unpaid worker.

If this practice continues then it will undermine good employers, consumer demand and the exchequer – just what the UK economy does not need!.

Good work experience is very valuable, but free work must not substitute for paid employment. Under the 1980s conservative government, firms had to follow the rules drawn up by Lord Drain in order to prevent the perverse outcome of state subsidy for replacing paid workers with unpaid labour.

Surely these are the kind of rules that we need now, in order to stop enterprises from competing with each other to see who can get the most free labour.

I’m sure that there is some excellent practice around – and i have seen internships advertised with pay rates of up to £18 per hour (very rarely)- but what do you know about the extent of free work in your industry or profession – are paid jobs being replace with unpaid work?

Any information gratefully received – Paul S.


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