New figures published today show that a fifth of UK businesses admit to knowingly exploiting their interns, who they see as an opportunity to gain free labour.

The stats – from a new YouGov report carried out on behalf of Graduate Fog’s friends Internocracy – explodes the myth that employers don’t know that what they’re doing is wrong.

Seventeen per cent of UK businesses said they had taken on interns to use as a cheap source of labour, while 95% of the 218 UK managers who responded agreed that interns were “useful to their organisation.”

Shockingly, the business lobbyists the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) leapt to defend these companies, arguing that young people doing internships had no right to expect payment. A spokesperson told the Guardian:

“The vast majority of interns especially in a very difficult labour market are looking for valuable experience which strengthens their ability to get their next job. The reality is that they do not expect to be paid for this.”

When I was asked to comment on this story for the same piece, I told them:

“Many managers continue to hide wimpishly behind the defence that they are offering these opportunities out of the goodness of their hearts, in order to give young people the chance to gain some experience.

“We need to move away from this bogus idea. What these companies are doing is taking their labour without paying for it. [Interns] are not just making the tea and distributing the post — they are doing real jobs and they deserve to be paid.”

I stand by every word of that.

And how DARE the CBI speak on behalf of interns, when they clearly have no understanding of this issue?

*What do you reckon?
In reality, do you think more than a fifth of employers who use unpaid interns know that what they’re doing is wrong? What percentage would you guess knowingly flout the NMW laws to obtain free labour for their organisation? What percentage genuinely think they’re doing a good thing by offering you experience – and don’t worry about it at all? Or do you think that most companies know deep down that what they’re doing isn’t right, but they push it to the back of their minds, reasoning that they’re doing a good thing – and besides, ‘Everybody does it’?

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