02 August 2012 #Employment
A report published by the Higher Education Statistics Authority has shown that the number of graduates going into unpaid employment or voluntary work has increased by 23% in the past year, and more than tripled since 2003.
Of the graduates who entered employment, 69% were employed in full-time paid work, 22% were employed part-time and 5% were self-employed or freelance. 6,295 graduates (4%) were in voluntary or unpaid work, an increase from 5,120 the previous year. The figures also showed that the number of graduates going into internships or low or unpaid positions in the professional services rose by 21% in the past year.
Internships aimed at giving graduates on-the-job training are common in marketing, banking, finance, information services and creative industries such as publishing. In the current job market employers are increasingly finding that more graduates are willing to take unpaid roles in return for such valuable experience.
However, the TUC are concerned that employers are taking advantage of graduates who are willing to work for little or no pay, and that this practice disadvantages less affluent graduates who may be less able to work for free.
The legal position
Volunteers do not benefit from the protection awarded under a contract of employment as employees do, and as such are a virtually free and flexible source of manpower. However, there is a risk that individuals described as “volunteers” or “interns” are actually employees and as such may have various employee rights, including the right to be paid the current national minimum wage of £6.08 per hour.
For more information on how to deal with volunteers, and the risks of such individuals being classed as employees, see the best practice volunteers factsheet on Employment Buddy.