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Welfare Reform on the Web (December 2011): Minimum Wage - UK

MPs may be breaking law in offering work to unpaid interns

S. Malik

The Guardian, Nov. 28th 2011, p. 13

Scores of MPs, from millionaire Tory cabinet members to Labour backbenchers, may have broken minimum wage law by taking on unpaid interns, according to legal advice to ministers. A combination of changes to parliamentary expenses rules and record graduate unemployment is thought to have increased placements offered in Westminster, leading to a fear of a new political class emerging, drawn from those whose parents are rich enough to support months of unpaid work that nevertheless offers networking opportunities. Hundreds of advertisements on the Commons site, Work for MP (W4MP) show that, since the election, there have been 260 unpaid internships, some not even providing expenses, the longest lasting 10 months. Thirteen Tory members of the government offered 28 placements lasting up to six months, out of 138 for Conservative MPs. These included culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, seven, the attorney general, Dominic Grieve , three, and exchequer secretary to the Treasury David Gauke, seven. Ministers Andrew Lansley, Grant Shapps and Andrew Mitchell also advertised.

Two months without pay - welcome to the new world of work experience

S. Malik

The Guardian, Nov. 17th 2011, p. 4

Britain's jobless young people were being sent to work for supermarkets and budget stores for up to two months for no pay and no guarantee of a job, the Guardian can reveal. Under the government's work experience programme young jobseekers were exempted from national minimum wage laws for up to eight weeks and were being offered placements in Tesco, Poundland, Argos, Sainsbury's and a multitude of other big-name businesses. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said that if jobseekers 'expressed an interest' in an offer of work experience they must continue to work without pay, after a one-week cooling-off period or face having their benefits docked. Young people have told the Guardian that they are doing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour and had to be available from 9am to 10pm.

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