We previously blogged on whether unpaid internships should be a thing of the past, after Chris Holmes called for a ban on unpaid internships lasting longer than four weeks. Cancer Research has now announced that it will indeed be making unpaid internships a thing of the past in its business.
There has been growing momentum in the media calling for the banning of unpaid internships as they are thought to exclude – especially at the school leaver / graduate end of the workforce – candidates who cannot afford to take on unpaid work. This in turn has had an impact on the diversity of the wider workforce, particularly in certain sectors, such as the charity sector. This is because, to get a foot in the door, you need to show that you have prior experience. Such experience, however, is usually gained by way of unpaid internships, and so the cycle continues.
Cancer Research, in a bid to improve the diversity of its workforce, has taken the decision to hire up to 100 over-18-year-old interns per year and pay them all the national living wage. It has ensured that these interns, who are all looking to start a career in the charity sector, are distinguished from genuine voluntary workers who are giving time philanthropically. The charity’s chief executive, Sir Harpal Kumar, has commented that it is important for the public to be able to trust big charities to “operate to the highest standards”. This is especially pertinent in the wake of the Oxfam scandal in recent weeks.
With the matter of unpaid internships highlighted in the Taylor Review and the government committed to introducing new guidance and targeted enforcement to ensure national minimum wage compliance, it is to be hoped that many more charities and companies will follow the lead of Cancer Research.