Employers are exploiting thousands of young interns by getting them to work for free, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned.
With about one-fifth of 16- to 24-year-olds unemployed, increasing numbers of graduates are taking unpaid internships or extended work experience programmes.
The TUC said some are so desperate to gain experience in the workplace that they are willing to pay for it, the BBC reported.
Paul Sellers, policy officer at the TUC, said some employers were ignorant of the minimum wage legislation, while “others are just ripping people off”.
Increasingly many businesses are using work experience as an opportunity they can charge for, notably among television companies and banks.
But Tom Richmond, skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said the law on work experience was clear.
“If employees are contributing to the workplace, if they are doing work for you, you have to pay them the minimum wage,” he said.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said it took the exploitation of young workers seriously and said anyone who did have concerns should report them as soon as possible.
A spokesman said: “It is the responsibility of the employer to conform to the national minimum wage and it is unacceptable to exploit people who are entitled to it.
“We take very seriously any suggestions of exploitation and have worked throughout with the TUC to give clear messages to employers about their responsibilities for internships and the national minimum wage.”