From April to June 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Labour is conducting an employment standards inspection blitz targeting organizations that employ unpaid interns. The goal is to ensure worker rights are protected and enhance employers’ awareness of their responsibilities.
Opposition MPP Jonah Schein has introduced a private member’s bill to place stricter limits on unpaid internships in Ontario. Bill 170, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Greater Protection for Interns and Vulnerable Workers), 2014, doesn’t seek to eliminate unpaid internships entirely, but rather hopes to make employers more accountable and give interns (and students) more legal clout.
The issue of unpaid work has been a hot topic for quite a while now, and despite efforts by authorities to clarify the legal status, sometimes it seems that employers aren’t understanding it any better. To get a better idea of where our readers stand, we recently asked, Do you have unpaid internships at your organization? Slightly more than 80 percent of respondents said no, they don’t use unpaid interns, while nearly 20 percent said yes, they do. We didn’t ask whether employers are using legal unpaid internships, or whether they know if their internship arrangements are legal, but we’d like to offer our two cents and hopefully help our readers understand what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to unpaid internships.