The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has welcomed reports that a government advisory body is set to call for ‘unfair’ work placements to be scrapped.
The government-backed Social Mobility Commission is expected to say in its annual report that employers have failed to end ‘unfair’ internships where people work for free and that long unpaid placements should be banned because they stop people from poorer backgrounds getting a foothold in professions such as law.
According to The Times, the commission’s chair Alan Milburn will call for placements that last longer than four weeks to be classed as an ‘internship’ and for workers to be paid at least the minimum wage.
Many work placements are in London, the report will say, where unpaid interns can spend up to £1,000 on rent and travel costs every month while working for free.
JLD chair Bryan Scant told the Gazette that unpaid internships had placed ‘a significant barrier to entry into the profession for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds’.
Scant referenced a survey of its members that the JLD undertook in 2014 which showed that 23% of respondents had worked unpaid for more than six months, while 3% had worked unpaid for two years or more.
‘Gaining work experience is often vital in obtaining a position as a trainee solicitor, however that should not be limited to those who have the financial means to support themselves,’ Scant said.
He added: ‘With the increasing cost of university education, the JLD is keen to ensure that our members are not disadvantaged further by feeling compelled to work unpaid for excessive periods of time in the belief that their careers will suffer if they do not.’
The commission’s report will be published this week.