Wetherby MP fights for interns' right to be paid

Alec Shelbrooke MP in the House of Commons presenting his petition.
Alec Shelbrooke MP in the House of Commons presenting his petition.

The MP for Wetherby, Elmet and Rothwell has started a one-man crusade to protect students leaving education by introducing a bill to ban unpaid internships.

Alec Shelbrooke MP introduced his Private Member’s Bill to the House of Commons last week and his mission to stop the practice is backed by campaign group Intern Aware.

The ‘National Minimum Wage (Workplace Internships) Bill’ calls for an amendment of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and to ensure students are paid for the workplace internships they undertake.

“Since 2010 I have used my time in the House of Commons to progress issues of social justice; advancing opportunities for young people based on their ability and not their background has been one of those issues.

“Unpaid internships are a scourge on social mobility and it is my mission to ban this shoddy employment practice. I want to see a country that works for everyone and that is the reason I came into politics.

“Ordinary kids with a background like mine are finding it increasingly difficult to access top jobs unless they’ve undertaken an unpaid internship, having had to work for no pay and travel expenses only for up to a year - often in London.

“I want a level playing field on which opportunity for young people is based on talent and ability.”

An unpaid internship is an employment practice where young people are asked to work for an employer without receiving a salary, only travel expenses.

According to a YouGov poll published last year 43 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds believe unpaid internships have acted as a major barrier to getting a job.

The bill is expected to receive a second reading in autumn defining that unpaid internships should last no longer than four weeks, after which interns should receive a temporary contact.