[Famous high street businesses, including Topshop and the recruitment specialist Reed, are being named and shamed by an internet campaign targeting the rise of unpaid and very low paid internships that, it is claimed, is undermining the link between pay and work.
Topshop, the star performer in Sir Philip Green's £2.7bn Arcadia retail empire, is exposed for paying graduates on month-long work experience secondments just £3.50 a day plus limited travel expenses.
Urban Outfitters, the American clothier with stores in a dozen cities around the UK, has been attacked for advertising a nine-month unpaid internship in their merchandising department for people who are "hardworking, organised [and] able to multi-task".
And Reed, one of the country's largest job agencies, has been nicknamed "Greedy Reed" for having advertised 46 unpaid internships within its company, variously described as "intern receptionist", "intern executive assistant" and "secretarial admin internship". The adverts were recently taken down after the company was reminded by the campaign of the obligations of the national minimum wage legislation introduced in 1999. There is no legal definition of an "intern", and the law says that anybody who qualifies as a worker must be paid at least £6.08 an hour if aged 21.
These big corporations, and others, are featuring on the web pages of Graduate Fog, a site dedicated to the travails of young people emerging into the jobs market during what the Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King said last week might be the country's worst ever economic crisis. The site says unpaid labour is the "big issue" facing people in their late teens and early 20s and the problem may get worse before it gets better.]