You might have heard or read something in the past few months about internships—their status with respect to employment standards and whether it’s even legal to employ such workers without paying them. It’s no small issue. Many organizations rely on unpaid interns to do work for which they can’t afford to hire an employee proper. And many individuals rely on internships to gain the experience they need to enter the workforce proper.
The problem is that there is no legal definition of an intern. For example, earlier this summer, following a series of media stories questioning the legality of internships, the Ontario Ministry of Labour took the unprecedented step of adding a fact page to their website entitled Internships in Ontario: What you need to know. The page makes it clear that, while no regulations pertaining to unpaid internships exist within the law, internships must nonetheless conform to a strict set of criteria to be considered legal.
Lawyer Andrew Langille notes that, “There is widespread mischaracterization of interns as persons receiving training, when in actuality they are employees.”
Check the details on CharityVillage.com. And remember: this isn’t an issue that affects only not-for-profits or charities. Any organization that utilizes unpaid interns should understand the legal relationship. Look for resources specific to your jurisdiction.
First Reference Internal Controls, Human Resources and Compliance Editor