A new survey has revealed that almost one in five business in the UK have used unpaid interns to cut the cost of work and help up prop up profits during the recession.
The vast majority (95%) of managers quizzed in the survey admitted that interns were "useful to their organisation" while 17% of companies said they had used them as a cheap form of labour.
Social enterprise Internocracy – which develops work experience schemes for employers – said its poll found only 12% of company bosses and 10% of young people knew that unpaid internships could be illegal under employment law.
Chief Executive Becky Heath said: "It's a real shame that young people don't know their employment rights. Conversely it is disappointing that businesses don't understand what interns are worth and the new talent, energy and enthusiasm they bring to the workplace."
More than a quarter of a million interns worked for UK companies last summer, the vast majority of them unpaid, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.