The UK’s biggest job boards have united in making a historic pledge to remove adverts for unpaid internships which appear to break the UK minimum wage law. The majority have also said they would back legislation to make it illegal to advertise illegal unpaid internships.

Since Monster went first with their ground-breaking promise back in May (to remove adverts for unpaid internships from their site, and to back legislation making it illegal to advertise unpaid internships), Graduate Fog has been keen to see who else would step up and follow their lead. A month later, Total Jobs came forward said they too would remove adverts for unpaid internships (although they stopped short of saying they would back legislation to ban the promotion of adverts for these opportunities). Then, everything went quiet.

But Graduate Fog hasn’t got where we are today by giving up that easily. So, in the last six weeks we have approached all the major UK job boards and asked them two questions. Question One: Will you promise to remove from your website any adverts for unpaid internships that appear to break the UK’s national minimum wage law? And Question Two: Would you back legislation to make it illegal to advertise illegal, unpaid internships?

In addition to Monster and Total Jobs – who had already said Yes earlier this year – Milkround, Reed, Target Jobs, Guardian Jobs, Prospects and Gorkana all agreed to Question 1. In other words, from now on none of these websites will advertise internships that appear to break the UK minimum wage law. So, if you spot one on there, just alert them (many have a ‘Report’ button) and they will remove it.

And our success continued – as almost all of the job boards we asked said Yes to Question Two as well, joining Monster who made the original pledge to back legislation making it illegal to advertise illegal, unpaid internships. Milkround, Total Jobs, Target Jobs and Prospects all said they would back such legislation.

Milkround – the most vocal and supportive of all the job boards we contacted, said:

“Milkround are pleased to announce our support of the movement to ban the advertisement of unpaid UK internships. Milkround are committed to instilling career confidence in all our students and graduates and as part of this will no longer advertise roles that do not meet the criteria set by UK National Minimum Wage legislation.

“As well as this, we welcome any feedback that candidates may have about roles on our site, both in the UK and abroad. We invite them to alert us of any concerns so that we can move swiftly and directly to look into the issue. We are always striving to provide the best service possible for our students, and believe that joining forces with other recognised figures in the recruitment industry to ban unpaid internships on our sites will be a step in the right direction, supporting the aim of having the advertisement of internships that do not meet National Minimum Wage criteria illegalised completely.”

Target Jobs said:

“TARGETjobs doesn’t advertise unpaid internships or work experience schemes, unless they are based overseas or are only for one week. We’ll monitor the roles going on our site and if they don’t meet our criteria they will be removed. [If there legislation were introduced to make it illegal to advertise unpaid internships] TARGETjobs would definitely view this as a positive step.”

Prospects said:

“If a scheme is in the UK and it is unpaid we don’t advertise it.If there were a change in UK law which would tighten legislation around unpaid internships we would be supportive.”

Guardian Job said:

“Guardian Jobs is committed to honouring the government statutory guidelines on minimum wage requirements for interns. Any role that is found to break these guidelines will be removed from our site immediately.”

Reed said:

“We believe it is essential that interns employed to do a job should be paid in accordance with employment law… any roles on that do not comply with UK minimum wage law will be removed.”

Graduate Fog is delighted so see that the UK’s biggest job boards have finally responded to pressure from young jobseekers. By banning adverts for illegal unpaid internships from their websites, they are effectively saying to exploitative employers ‘We don’t want your money’, shaming the shrinking number of organisations who think it’s okay to take young workers’ labour without paying them a wage for it.

It is also encouraging to see that the majority of the big UK job boards would back the introduction of legislation making it illegal to advertise illegal unpaid internships.

Critics of this idea – including the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg – fear this will create a ‘black market’ for the ‘best’ unpaid internships, which will go to those with the contacts to hear about them. But Graduate Fog’s users have said you believe this risk is minimal compared with the huge gains to be made from doing this.

Other doubters have voiced concerns that making it harder for employers to recruit unpaid interns could reduce the number of opportunities available for young people. Again, you have told us that this is a relatively small concern.

You point out that things could not be any worse than they are now, with unpaid internships exploiting those who do them, while excluding those who can’t afford to do them. And it’s not as if these positions even lead anywhere, much of the time. Tens of thousands of young people are finding they need to do more internships, for longer and longer periods before having any hope of being considered for paid work.

You say that fewer, better quality, paid internships is a far better option than more, low quality, unpaid ones. At least you’ll all have the same shot at them, regardless of your parents’ financial background.

This announcement is politically significant too. Now that the recruitment industry is backing young jobseekers, their parents, and a growing number of universities in showing their distaste for unpaid internships, that leaves only one group clinging to the idea that these wage-free ‘opportunities’ are a good thing: our politicians.

Despite all the outcry about the exploitative and exclusive nature of unpaid internships in the last few years, there is still no sign that the government takes this issue seriously at all. Hazel Blears’ bill died a death, the minimum wage law is rarely enforced for interns – and, when it is, the names of employers forced to pay up are kept secret by HMRC whose misplaced loyalties see them protecting the guilty, rather than shaming them publicly.

Meanwhile, dozens of MPs still have unpaid interns working for them, and recruit for them shamelessly via public websites. Work for an MP (w4mp) – the tight-fisted politician’s job board of choice – was the only website that refused to discuss its policy on unpaid internships. (We’ll post their bizarre response shortly. It’s gold).

With close to a million young people unemployed in the UK, this government still appears to have no real plan for solving the problem. In the meantime, it clings to their line that unpaid work is somehow the solution to youth unemployment – when the rest of us know that it’s already a big part of the problem.

How long can our politicians continue to ignore the voices of so many of us telling them to reconsider their beliefs? When so many rational, reasonable people are distancing themselves from the practice of unpaid internships, when will the government do the same?


Should they have done it sooner – or is it right that they waited until they had all the facts? Do you agree with the majority of Graduate Fog’s users, who say banning adverts for unpaid internships will on balance improve things for young jobseekers? Or do you share the doubters’ concerns that it could create a black market for the best unpaid internships? Please comment below – thanks!

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