Workplace deaths underestimated by 800%, claims Unite

Trade union Unite has accused the Government of “hiding behind statistics”, as workplace deaths are underestimated by more than 800%.

Unite accused ministers of introducing “light touch” health and safety regulations and called for an increase – not a decrease – in the number inspectors and workplace inspections.

The union said official statistics had enabled the Government to suggest UK health and safety is better than everywhere else but claimed this is a complete myth, since the real number of people killed in work-related incidents each year is probably closer to 1,400, over eight times the official Health and Safety Executive figure for 2011 of 171.

In addition, the union said 20,000 more women and men die every year – some estimates put this as high as 50,000 people – from occupational diseases, such as mesothellioma and cancers caused by negligent exposures at work to hazardous substances, such as asbestos, chemicals and dusts.

Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “The government is hell bent on reducing health and safety regulations, and standards. It will lead to fewer inspections, less enforcement and more deaths, injuries and ill-health at work.

“The Government strategy, built on myth and dogma, puts workers at greater risk.

“Unite has been very critical of the annual statistics on deaths at work, since these are only the tip of the iceberg, and represent a massive underestimate of the true problem.

The TUC has called for a day of action to defend health and safety.

Unite is calling for no reduction in the legal protection for workers on health and safety; those who create risk must be held accountable; no freedom from inspections and an increase in inspector numbers; recognition and support for the role that union safety representatives play; and more action to prevent occupational diseases.

Avoiding a false start – how to tackle employment issues during the Olympics

With the Olympics officially less than 100 days away, you should be considering how the Games could affect your business, and whether there’s anything you can do to ensure you get through them with the best possible results.

Our guide below deals with some of the key employment law issues arising from the Games to help you keep on track in dealing with any problems which may arise.

A number of our staff wish to take time off to attend the Games and others want time off to watch some of the big events. Do we have to allow them time off even though we have no cover?

There is no statutory entitlement for employees to take time off for the Olympics. Under the Working Time Regulations, provided employees are permitted to take their statutory entitlement during the relevant holiday year, individual requests for holiday can be refused. The employer is under no obligation to consult with the employee or justify its refusal. Employers are advised to check their own contracts and policies, but it is highly unlikely a policy would permit an employee to take time off during a major sporting event. However, if an employee has obtained tickets to attend the Games we would advise employers to permit the holiday request if at all possible. Clearly refusing such a request would damage morale and would do nothing to improve an employee’s loyalty or motivation. Employers should also be aware that if the holiday had previously been approved and the employee had paid for tickets to see an event as a result of receiving that approval, an employer would need an extremely good reason to change its mind. Otherwise this could be seen as a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence which could result in an employee resigning and bringing a constructive unfair dismissal claim.

In relation to employees who simply want time off to watch events at home, while employers are not legally obliged to do so, they may wish to adopt a relatively flexible approach given that the Olympics only comes around every 4 years, and allowing reasonable time off during the Games may help to avoid any disruption caused by absences.

Where the request is simply to leave work slightly early or take half a day’s holiday, employers may wish to consider whether the employee could work flexibly during the Games, e.g. by not taking breaks, starting earlier and finishing earlier or making the time up on another day, and whether half a day’s absence will disrupt the business sufficiently for it to be refused. Shift swaps are also an option, provided employees can arrange appropriate cover with their colleagues. Unpaid leave can also be offered, although again there is no obligation on employers to allow this.

Some larger employers have sought to adopt an “Olympics policy” for the duration of the event to ensure requests for time off are dealt with reasonably and fairly, e.g. on a first come, first served basis. Employers should ensure that employees are aware that any changes to hours or flexible working policies are only in place for the duration of the Games, and do not constitute a permanent variation of their terms and conditions of employment.

It is also important to note that those employees who are not interested in the Games are not treated less favourably than those who are. In particular, granting holidays at short notice or allowing flexible working during the Olympics may be seen as an act of discrimination if, for example, flexible working requests have been turned down in relation to working mothers, or if an employee’s request to time off for a religious holiday has been refused, so employers should act in an even-handed manner in implementing any special practices.

If an employee calls in sick on the day of an important event, can I discipline them if I suspect they are not really ill?

If it appears that an employee is lying about being ill in order to watch a specific event then this may be treated as a disciplinary issue, but employers need to ensure they have sufficient evidence that the employee is not genuinely ill before adopting this approach.

Evidence may include the fact that an employee has previously requested the day off or an earlier finish but that request has been refused. However, an employee is not required by law to obtain medical evidence for absences shorter than 7 days, so it may be very difficult to prove an employee was not genuinely unwell, however coincidental their absence may appear.

In order to head off any potential issues with absence during the Games, employers may wish to reiterate the company policy on notifying absence to employees by way of memo or email, and to state that unauthorised absence from work during the Olympics will be treated as a disciplinary offence. Introducing return to work interviews during the Olympics (if these are not already implemented) may help to avoid “sickies”. If you believe you may be in this situation, please contact a member of the team to discuss it further.

An employee has suggested showing big events on a screen at work. Do we have to do this, and, if we do so, what should we bear in mind?

Allowing staff to watch some of the main events on the premises may generate goodwill and limit the number of sick days taken, but employers should make sure that employees who are not interested in the events are not distracted from work and, if possible, are awarded similar perks.

Please also bear in mind the fact that there may be events which are more significant to employees of different nationalities. Therefore, what is generally seen as a relatively minor event to your British employees might be far more significant for an employee from another country.

Banter between employees of rival nations may also conceivably lead to harassment claims, which employers may be liable for if they failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harassment taking place. Employers may therefore be advised to reiterate equal opportunities and anti-harassment policies and to keep flags and other nationalistic paraphernalia to a minimum in the office.

If an employee asks to work from home during the Olympics, do we have to accommodate this?

There is no absolute right to request home working, but employers should look at each request on its merits. If an employee can do their job from home and can be trusted to carry out their work, this may be an option for employers.

However, there are also sex discrimination considerations to bear in mind. While the Olympics are enjoyed by both men and women, sport can still be seen as a male-dominated arena. If a woman has requested home working in the past and been refused, she may have a claim of less favourable treatment because of her sex if a male comparator has had his request granted.

If a request is granted, it is difficult for an employer to monitor an employee’s output from home to prove they are carrying out a full day’s work. Whilst employee monitoring is permitted, employers must be careful that any monitoring is not so intrusive so as to breach the implied term of mutual trust and confidence between employer and employee, which in turn may lead to constructive dismissal claims.

Is there any obligation to comply with requests to “dress down” or wear clothes indicating an employee’s support of a particular country?

Most employers will have dress codes either to promote a smart professional appearance or for health and safety reasons. In these cases, employers are well within their rights to insist all dress codes are adhered to during the Olympics, and may discipline those employees who break the rules.

If there is no strict dress code, it may be more difficult to prevent an employee from wearing what they choose, but there is an implied term in all contracts of employment that employees will dress in a manner both suitable and appropriate to the business and will obey the employer’s reasonable orders.

From a race discrimination point of view, employees of other nationalities must also be permitted to wear their countries’ ‘colours’ if British supporters are allowed to do so.

An employee has been on the internet constantly watching events and checking results – can we discipline him?

Excessive use of the internet for non-work related reasons may be a gross misconduct offence, but employers should check their IT and internet policies and warn employees in advance of what levels of usage will and will not be tolerated.

Employers may, however, simply wish to accept that employees will not be quite as productive as usual during the Games, and that taking a more relaxed approach to internet usage now may foster a sense of loyalty and goodwill from employees in the future.

The content of this item does not constitute legal advice and it should not be relied upon. Specific legal advice may be required to address your specific circumstance.

Employers’ confidence to hire reaches three-year high, according to REC

Employer confidence to recruit has reached the highest level since 2009, according to The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s JobsOutlook, a monthly survey of employers’ hiring intentions.

The report found employers intend to hire more staff in both the short and long term, with a particular emphasis on taking on more permanent workers. However, the increase in confidence was smaller from February to March than the previous month.

Almost three quarters of employers (72%) plan to increase the number of permanent employees over the next three months and 69% expect to increase permanent hires over the next year

More than a third (34%) plan to increase agency worker numbers in the next quarter (with 44%saying they plan to keep numbers the same) and 29% will increase agency workers over the next 12 months (with 55% saying they will maintain their current numbers).

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s director of research, Roger Tweedy, said: “The overall figures from quarter one are really positive. Looking forward, employers tell us they plan to make more job offers over both the short and medium term – particularly for permanent roles.

“Our measure of employer confidence has reached a record high point. But the growth in confidence was less than last month so it will be important to track whether increasing employer confidence is a continuing trend or whether it’s peaking.”

Class discrimination and unconcious bias plague recruitment and promotion opportunities, admit HRDs

Social class discrimination and unconscious bias in the workplace are the new equality frontiers, according to law firm Pannone.

But HR professionals do not believe that legislation is the answer to stamping out these forms of discrimination.

The survey found that more than half (52%) of HR directors and managers believe social class inequality exists in the workplace, while 79% said that unconscious bias is widespread in many aspects of working life such as recruitment and promotion opportunities.

But less than a third of those surveyed (27%) think legislation is the solution to tackling social class discrimination.

A DWP survey last year found widespread name-bias against ‘foreign sounding’ names and the Liberal Democratss proposed a policy to introduce ‘name-blank’ job application forms.

The policy was later dropped when the party formed the Coalition Government.

But it appears that employers would not welcome ‘name-black’ application forms. While more than three-quarters said that unconscious bias is prevalent, only 37% believe that their introduction would be a good idea.

The survey also revealed that more than 90% of HR professionals think that inequality is still rife in the workplace, particularly between the sexes.

Jim Lister, head of employment at Pannone, said: “It is not surprising that employers are reluctant to see new equality legislation – they are still getting to grips with the introduction of the Equality Act 18 months ago which gave a major shake-up to equal opportunities legislation.

“There is also recognition from employment lawyers and HR professionals that legislating against social class discrimination would be extremely difficult. Is a person’s social class defined at birth? Or, does someone born working class ‘become’ middle class when they secure a professional job such as a doctor or lawyer?”

Lister added: “Historically, as each new form of inequality was identified, there has always been some opposition to legislation. However, the fact remains that whilst equality legislation is no ‘quick fix’, it does change attitudes over time.

“Blatant acts of discrimination are far less common than they once were and the vast majority of people believe – at least on a conscious level – that everyone deserves equality of opportunity regardless of any protected characteristics they may have.”

Elsewhere, despite high unemployment in the 16-24 NEET age group at a time when employers are receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of job applications for low-skill jobs, the survey found that only 22 per cent had increased qualification requirements for entry level positions – for example asking for a degree where only a post-16 qualification was previously required.

Restrictive covenants: are these always enforceable by the employer?

Restrictive covenants and non-solicitation clauses are unpopular with employees – and employers are always concerned that, when put to the test, their contracts may not be enforceable.

Many employers have non-solicitation clauses in their employment contracts, to prevent former employees soliciting their customers in the event that their employment is terminated. Where a former employee initiates contact with a customer, and does something more than informs the customer of their departure, the employee may be regarded as soliciting the customer.

In the case of Towry EJ v Bennett and others, the High Court considered whether several former employees had solicited their former clients in breach of contract.

The claimant was an investment services firm and had acquired the business employing the defendants, who were financial advisers. The defendants’ employment contracts contained various post-termination restrictive covenants including a non-solicitation covenant, under which the defendants agreed that, for 12 months after termination, they would not directly or indirectly: “solicit, canvas or endeavour to solicit or canvas in any capacity whatsoever, by post, phone, electronic communication, personal contact, or by any other means, any business, orders or custom which is in competition with any restricted Business from any Active Customer”.

Following the acquisition, the defendants left to join the co-defendant company. A substantial number of clients followed the defendants to the new company and as a result the claimant issued a claim for breach of contract against the defendants. The claimant claimed that the departing employees had persuaded the clients to move their investments to the co-defendant, and in doing so had breached their contractual post-termination covenants.

The High Court ruled that a mass departure of clients to the new company would not normally be enough evidence, by itself, for an employer to establish a breach of its former employees’ non-solicitation clause. Justice Cox held that to prove “solicitation” in a claim for breach of a non-solicitation clause, the burden is on the employer to provide evidence of actual “persuasion” or “encouragement”. It was not sufficient to merely show a movement of clients from the ex-employer to the new employer and to ask the court to infer that a solicitation had occurred. The court emphasised that the burden of proof rests with the employer.

Cox held that solicitation should be generally defined as meaning if an employee “directly or indirectly request[s], persuade[s] or encourage[s] clients of their former employer to transfer their business to their new employer”.

In this case, the volume of business lost over a short space of time to a competitor led the claimant to assume that there must have been solicitation, but this was not supported by the evidence. As a result, the claimant failed to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that communications between the defendants and their customers contained a material element of persuasion with a view to gaining the business of those customers. This case provides that it is for the former employer to prove that the clients transferred as a result of the employee’s requests, persuasion and/or encouragement, as opposed to out of trust and loyalty towards that employee.

This case highlights the importance of evidence in cases of alleged breach of restrictive covenants. It is also a reminder that businesses should regularly review their restrictive covenant clauses to ensure maximum protection. The goal posts shift frequently and what might have been enforceable can no longer be so in a relatively short space of time.

Employers are advised that due to the difficulty in proving a breach of a non-solicitation clause their contracts of employment should also have a non-dealing clause, which would prevent customers working with the former employee, even if they wish to transfer their business to him or her.

The above piece is written by Katherine Maxwell, partner and head of employment, Moore Blatchand published here courtesy of HR magazine.

UK Supreme Court clarifies law on default retirement age

In a judgment published yesterday, the Supreme Court has left the door slightly ajar for allowing businesses to set their own retirement age for staff – but only if the reasons for doing so meet both their own and public policy objectives. It cautioned employers against adopting their own default retirement age (DRA) without careful scrutiny.

The case, viewed as one of the most significant for years on the issue of age discrimination, involved Leslie Seldon, a former senior civil litigation partner at law firm Clarkson Wright and Jakes (CWJ), who was required to retire at 65. Although the default retirement age (DRA) was abolished in October 2011, its exemption provisions had not been legally tested till now.

CWJ argued its retirement policy satisfied the exemption requirements of the DRA legislation, because: it allowed effective succession planning of partners and the workforce; provided associates with a clear opportunity of partnership, so aiding retention; and avoided the need to expel partners through performance management, (the ‘dignity’ point).

The Supreme Court accepted the principle that a private employer could have its own DRA, but it thought that there had not been sufficient scrutiny of whether the chosen retirement age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving those aims at CWJ.

It sent the case back to the employment tribunal to carry out that closer examination. Only then will there be a final conclusion on the overall issue of whether this employer is entitled to have its retirement age of 65 for partners.

There was mixed reaction to the decision.

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills policy, said: “This ruling confirms that, at least in principle, companies are able to set their own retirement age. However, this does nothing to fill the vacuum left by the Government’s scrapping of the default retirement age.

“If employers want to set a retirement age that is suitable for their workforce, and know for sure whether it is legitimate, they will still have to go through a costly and lengthy legal process.

“The Government cannot continue to pass the buck. Employers need to know how to handle the sensitive issue of retirement, with adequate protection to discuss plans with their staff, and better guidance on when a retirement age is justifiable.”

Irwin Mitchell partner and national head of employment, Tom Flanagan, commented: “This is an eagerly awaited judgment, as the outcome provides businesses with clearer guidance in relation to their own retirement policies after the DRA was abolished in October 2011.

“The Supreme Court has required what looks like a more restrictive interpretation of those issues, which means that an employer can have its own DRA, but only if its legitimate aim satisfies public policy objectives, as well as its own internal ones, and it is prepared to gather sufficient evidence to justify the means of achieving it.

“The ‘inference of discrimination’ would be even stronger if the performance management applied to older employees is different to what was applied to them previously, and is in any way different to what is applied to the rest of the workforce.”

Caroline Carter, head of employment, incentives and pensions at law firm Ashurst, added: “Unfortunately, the ruling does not give employers the much-needed clarity they have been seeking as to when they can justify having a compulsory retirement age. Consistent with European case law, the Supreme Court has agreed that succession planning (‘intergenerational sharing’), and avoiding performance management of older workers (‘dignity’) are legitimate aims. However it has left the Employment Tribunal to decide on the particular facts whether 65 was a proportionate retirement age to pick, and has explicitly left it to employers to grapple with whether they consider a particular retirement age is justified in their business.

“For many employers who have now abolished their retirement ages following the change in law in April, the ruling does not alter their position: the safest course is to remain without a compulsory retirement age and therefore avoid the inevitable legal argument which would follow if they tried to introduce one,” Carter added.

Anthony Fincham, head of employment law at CMS Cameron McKenna , said: “This litigation is not a great advertisement for our system, but I do not think this judgment will allow mandatory retirement ages to return by the back door. We have had four hearings to date and the Supreme Court has now sent this back to the Employment Tribunal for further consideration. Six years on from his compelled retirement, Mr Seldon still does not know whether that was lawful. Mind you, it would have been worse if there had been a reference to the European Court somewhere along the way.”

Richard Fox, partner and head of employment at law firm Kingsley Napley, added: “This is a significant decision not just for partnerships but all companies craving certainty and guidance about how to handle issues of retirement and succession. The abolition of the default retirement age and increasing numbers of people wanting to work longer to make up for inadequate pension provision, combined with economic pressure on jobs, is a real conundrum for employers. In that sense, the guidance offered by the Supreme Court today that it is possible to justify compulsory retirement on specific grounds, is very much to be welcomed.”

Dismissal for falling asleep on the job – fair or unfair?

Mrs Ajayi and Mr Ogeleyinbo (the claimants) were employees at a care home. Their employer made it clear that sleeping on duty would usually lead to dismissal. The claimants were dismissed following a spot check where they were found asleep. Mr Ogeleyinbo asserted that he had been taking his rest break at that time. There is a right, under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes if a day’s working time is more than six hours.

The claimants did not have the requisite qualifying period to bring a claim of “ordinary” unfair dismissal. However, they claimed unfair dismissal under s101A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). This is because employees will be regarded as automatically unfairly dismissed where the principal reason for dismissal is that they refused, or proposed to refuse, to comply with an employer’s imposed requirement in contravention of the WTR or to forgo rights provided under it.

An Employment Tribunal (ET) dismissed the claims and held that the only reason for dismissal was because they were asleep on duty. Furthermore, they had not refused to comply with a requirement that was contrary to the WTR or to forgo rights granted under such legislation. This is because these refusals had not been communicated to the employer.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) upheld the ET’s decision. In its view a “refusal” had to be explicit and cannot be implied from employees’ conduct. Any other interpretation would be confusing as the employer would not know that the employee had “refused” to comply with its requirements unless it discovered the employee behaving contrary to them.

The WTR does not provide that an employee is entitled to a break after working six hours. A worker with an eight hour day will be entitled to a rest break but whether this comes after three, four or six hours is a matter of negotiation between the employer and employee. There is a need for communication and the word “refusal” reflects this.

Conclusion

In the EAT’s view the fact the employer is in breach of the WTR does not give employees protection under s101A of the ERA where they take rest breaks without the employer’s permission. Employees must expressly refuse to accept a lack of such breaks.

If the employees had been able to bring an “ordinary” claim for unfair dismissal, the ET would have had to consider whether their dismissals fell within the band of reasonable responses, in the context of the employer being in breach of the WTR rest break provisions.

The content of this item does not constitute legal advice and it should not be relied upon. Specific legal advice may be required to address your specific circumstance.

Better physical and mental health delivers benefits for both the employee and employer

Workplace health and wellbeing do not remain constant. The focus of attention for organisations shifts and changes as technology, working practices and societal expectations and norms develop.

Musculo-skeletal problems (especially back pain and strain injuries) have been important for decades and seem likely to continue to cause problems for working people.

Work-related stress and mental health represent other major health and wellbeing issues and, for the first time, absences from work due to work-related stress have overtaken musculoskeletal problems to become the top cause of long-term absence, even for manual workers. As the items covered in this supplement demonstrate, the framework for employers contains a mix of psychological and physical health issues. Much research evidence emphasises the close connection between mental and physical health, with a growing body of research demonstrating correlations between psychological well- being and health outcomes, ranging from the common cold through to early death.

Evidence on the business case for health and wellbeing is powerful and shows how better physical and mental health delivers benefits for both the employee and employer. Specific gains for employers include the fairly obvious outcome of lower levels of sickness absence, but there is also evidence of improved customer/user satisfaction, performance and productivity and all-round business performance. The various government-led initiatives, such as Steve Boorman’s report on the wellbeing of staff in the NHS and David Macleod and Nita Clarke’s taskforce on employee engagement, all provide impressive evidence on the gains that employees who are engaged and well deliver for themselves and their organisations.

Realising these benefits is not always straightforward. For example, introducing flexible working arrangements can create tensions and difficulties when it is not made available to all. Well-intentioned initiatives can have unintended effects and create more problems than they solve. A piecemeal approach is not as effective as a more holistic solution.

The latter requires organisations to bring together health and wellbeing at a strategic level – or a full range of business benefits may not be realised and competitive advantage lost.

The danger with a piecemeal approach is that initiatives will not be joined up properly nor potential benefits be realised. Building a resilient workforce through initiatives to prevent or tackle health problems early (such as better workstations or fast treatment for musculo-skeletal pains) training and development (eg resilience training programmes) and better working practices (eg flexible working) can deliver wide-ranging gains. If these initiatives are tackled through a series of separate initiatives, delivered by different functions, such as occupational health, learning and development or HR, synergies and wider gains may be missed.

Introducing such initiatives may improve the reputation of the organisation as a place to work – and provide capacity to use this to attract better talent. But if talent management is not on the agenda, potential benefits may never be realised.

A strategic approach to wellbeing starts with the overall goals of the organisation and an examination of the extent to which existing and proposed wellbeing initiatives can support the goals.

An important aspect of a strategic approach involves establishing clear indicators and measurement metrics that can be used to identify the goals of a wellbeing programme and to monitor progress. Although there is more interest than ever in the benefits of improved wellbeing, it is essential to be able to clarify and quantify the gains to be made.

The above piece is written by Ivan Robertson (pictured) professor of organisational psychology at Leeds University Business School and a founding director of wellbeing consultancy Robertson Cooper and published here courtesy of HR magazine.


British Safety Council’s manifesto for safer and healthier workplaces launched at House of Commons

The British Safety Council yesterday launched its manifesto for workplace health and safety, Working Well, in the House of Commons at an event hosted by Member of Parliament, Andy Slaughter.

Health and safety generates polarised views. Some see health and safety regulation as key to preventing injury and ill health; others see it as a burden on business, driving risk aversion and undermining our collective sense of responsibility. Over the past year health and safety regulation has been under scrutiny from the government and the press have frequently highlighted misapplication of these regulations.

The British Safety Council believes too many people are still being killed, injured or made ill by work.

In Britain in 2010/11 there were 26,000 major injuries, 26.4 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury and globally 2.2 million workers are being killed each year. In Britain this is estimated to cost the economy £22 billion and internationally the economic impact is estimated at 4% of global gross domestic product.

Alex Botha, chief executive of the British Safety Council, announcing the launch of the manifesto said: “Our vision is that no-one should be killed, injured or made ill through work activities. Our goal is to bring together influential players, including politicians and opinion formers, to help focus on what we need to do make that vision a reality. Health and safety, when properly and sensibly managed, produces immense business, economic and social benefits.

“Working Well outlines the actions businesses and others can take now and is call to action in the UK and worldwide. The manifesto is a long-term road-map, setting out a number of actions in five steps that will bring together all those with an interest in health and safety to deliver. For Britain more regulation and enforcement is not the answer. Better sharing of knowledge and expertise, as well as a more risk educated society, is.

“The British Safety Council is looking to shift the direction of the debate away from the silly stories that fixate on ill-informed or misguided decisions, supposedly made in the name of health and safety, which stifle lawful activity. The manifesto will help us focus on what we need to do in our society to better understand and manage risk. We are calling on business, employers and other interested stakeholders to actively and publicly support and promote the manifesto.”

Go to www.britsafe.org/manifesto to get a copy.

Government’s social mobility reviewer voices concerns over unpaid internships

Alan Milburn, independent reviewer of social mobility and child poverty for the coalition government, has voiced his concerns over the implications of unpaid internships.

Commenting in the spring edition of Graduate Market Trends the Higher Education Careers Services quarterly guide to the graduate labour market, he said: “I’m concerned at the number of unpaid internships and informal ‘friends and family schemes’ that are still common in some sectors… The evidence that I have seen shows that, despite some examples to the contrary, connection rather than ability continues to be the key to getting an internship. This is both unfair and bad for business. So I think there are three key principles for effective internship programmes.

“First, providing individuals with meaningful work experience opportunities, rather than be used as a source of free or cheap administrative support. Second, ensuring opportunities are accessible to all and based on ‘what you know’, rather than ‘who you know’, through open and transparent recruitment. And third, offering paid internships, so that they are accessible to those without private means of support.”

Getting behind the recent Wilson review, calling for more collaboration between Universities and businesses Milburn said added: “There should be a sector wide agreement that no university careers service will offer unpaid internships. In general, this will mean that the employer should pay. In a small number of cases, where there are outstanding internship opportunities but the employer is simply unable to provide funding, then universities should use their Offa funds to support eligible students. Employers need graduates, and so the sector could send a powerful message that would help move this forward.”