Graduates mount war against unpaid internships

Unpaid internships have been a hot topic in the media over recent years, with HMRC clamping down on employers and Intern Aware trying to raise awareness of the issue.

This week saw the debate heat up once again as students from King’s College London decided to wage war against the fashion industry.

At London Fashion Week, a banner flying out of a Somerset House window declared:

“Paying interns is so in this year”.

Anthony Shaw, a member of the university’s student union was holding one end of the banner. He commented on the use of unpaid interns in the fashion industry:

“London Fashion Week now occurs every year on our doorstep. This was a perfect opportunity to go out and raise awareness of the issue.”

Areeb Ullah a fellow banner holder said: “The reality is that in most cases unpaid internships are against the law, but fashion designers recruit unpaid interns on sometimes a monthly basis.”

King’s College student union has taken a stand against unpaid internships, refusing to pay interns any less than the Living Wage. Many others have also taken the decision to only advertise opportunities paying the National Minimum Wage.

However, despite the push to rid unpaid internships from the fashion industry, it is still an ongoing practice. The students from King’s College help out at London Fashion Week every year, but it is often unpaid.

Chris Hares from Intern Aware, a campaign trying to raise awareness about the issue, said: “There is a culture of taking young people for granted stitched into the fabric of the industry. We have reported several adverts for unpaid work to HMRC to investigate.”

Another recent case involves the late designer Alexander McQueen. The fashion house reportedly hired Rachel Watson on an unpaid internship, but she is now suing her former employer for over £6,000 in lost wages.

However, the fashion industry isn’t the only culprit; HMRC has recently warned record labels that it is writing to them to warn about advertising for unpaid interns. Although it wouldn’t name any names, it wasn’t afraid to indirectly point the finger at Universal, Sony and Warner.

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