EU move to ban unpaid internships a step in the right direction

14 June 2023

Labour workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock has welcomed the vote by the European Parliament to ban unpaid internships.

Senator Sherlock said:

“The vote in the European Parliament to ban unpaid internships casts a light on the failures of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to implement progressive policy here at home.

“Twelve months ago, the Labour Party published a bill to ban unpaid internships following in the footsteps of France, Germany and other EU member states in restricting and outlawing ‘open market’ internships.

“Now we see that the EU parliament, even with a centrist & right-wing majority, have acted, while the Irish government has done nothing.

“The vote called for internships to have fair remuneration in line with minimum wage, social security coverage, clear training and learning objectives.

“We in the Labour party believe that all work undertaken must be recognised, that work must be respected and at the very least, work must be paid at the national minimum wage.

“This vote by the European Parliament must be a wake-up call to the Irish government, who seemingly believe that unpaid internships are not unpaid work. Work must pay, and internships should not be a tool to access free labour.

“It’s time to stop the exploitation of graduates and young people. Everyone should be able to access the opportunities available through an internship, not just those who have the financial means to do so. We know from research conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), that young workers coming from a higher socio-economic class background are more likely to access paid internships.

“Research by the Sutton Trust in the UK found that while just 7% of the population there are privately educated, some 51% of leading print journalists and 74% of the top judges were privately educated. We currently don’t have comparable data for Ireland and while the figure may not be as extreme, there is an important lesson there.

“Internships should be fulfilling, insightful and engaging experiences. They should help people; particularly young people, access the workforce and build the social networks they often need in order to pursue future work in their field. We welcome the vote today and are calling on Government to fast track legislation here.”

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