The number of unpaid internships offered by start-up companies has been on the rise recently. Many would say, including myself, this presents fantastic opportunities for young people to gain experience in the often dynamic and fast-paced environment of a new business. Equally, if you talk to unpaid interns you will undoubtedly hear numerous examples of start-up internships providing benefits that go far beyond that of monetary reward.
However, there is a fine line between offering a young person a career-changing opportunity and taking advantage of a free labour source. It is this situation that all companies need to consider when taking on an intern, if for no other reason than to protect both parties involved.
The UK Government provides specific guidelines on employment rights for interns and it is this I urge you to read before you recruit your next intern, especially if he/she is not a current student required to undertake an internship as part of their further or higher education course.
There are, of course, a number of other areas you may want to consider alongside the law. Will offering unpaid internships contribute to elitism with only a minority of young people being able to afford to work for free? Have you got the correct structure and support in place to offer an intern a truly beneficial experience? And so on.
As the owner of a start-up myself I know that currently we do not have the resources and necessary structure to offer an internship, hence why we do not offer internships yet, even though we would hugely appreciate the extra help.
In summary, I am certainly not saying that unpaid internships are wrong as there are numerous examples of unpaid interns who are ever so grateful for the opportunity they were given, as proof of this – my business allows employers to advertise unpaid internships on the site. I am simply asking that the topic is given consideration by employers to make sure they are acting responsibly.
Michael Foote, is the Managing Director of Career Camel, www.CareerCamel.com, a platform designed for students to develop employability skills and connect with employers. For companies, it is free to advertise internships, with the added benefit of applicant filtering and video CV functionality. There is also a solution to install a free in-house recruitment solution for your own website.