All interns would be paid the minimum wage “at the very least” under a new bill from the Labour party.
Labour Senator Marie Sherlock has tabled new legislation that would “effectively outlaw unpaid work experience”.
As part of her campaign, she has labelled unpaid internships “ageist, classist and discriminatory” warning that they “reinforce privilege and hinder workplace diversity”.
Her bill, now at second stage in the Seanad, would ensure that anyone who works more than 30 hours in a month is paid the minimum wage.
🗣️ It's time to ban unpaid internships.
Labour want to see an end to the ageist, classist and discriminatory practice. 🚫
— The Labour Party (@labour) May 24, 2022
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, she said unpaid internships are causing increased inequality in the workplace.
“I suppose we’re coming from the perspective that all work must be recognised, respected and, at the very least, must be paid the minimum wage,” she said.
“Our bill to ban unpaid internships is very much following the example of the UK, France, Germany, Australia and other countries in effectively outlawing unpaid work experience.
“I think we’re all aware that networks and connections are crucial to opening doors and that is not a bad thing in itself, but to me, what’s not good is that we don’t have a level playing field particularly for workers at the early stages of their careers.
“Some people - and it is great if they can - rely on their parents and others to support them through unpaid work experience but for many others, they don’t have that fallback.”
She said the bill includes a “very small and narrow set of exemptions” that will allow unpaid internships to continue if they are:
- Charitable or philanthropic positions.
- Under the direction of family members.
- Apprentice positions.
- Third level work placements.
Senator Sherlock said the “real issue” she is trying to address is companies using interns for positions that might otherwise be paid.
She said research in the UK and Europe shows that work placements have better outcomes when they are paid.
“Where an employer has to put a bit of effort into a work experience placement - where they have to pay the person - they themselves put a bit of effort into the conditions the person is going to be operating in,” she said.
“If somebody is taken on and the employer doesn’t have to pay … employers put much less effort into that. I think that tells a story in itself about that experience.”