Internships paid or not

Hi. Welcome to Tips Tuesday. My name is Melanie Thorley, and I’m the principal solicitor at MJT Law. Today we’re going to look at volunteer workers and interns. Now, work experience and internships, when should they be paid? This is a really big question, and it often trips employers up. Remember, and employee may be able to recover any unpaid wages up to six years after they worked, so you need to make sure that your intern, or unpaid intern, or work experience person is truly an unpaid intern or work experience.

Now, some of the criteria to make sure that they are a volunteer or an unpaid intern is the reason for the arrangement. What is the purpose for the person working there? Is it to give them work experience, or is it to help you with your business? Also, the length of time is an important factor, and how significant their presence is to the business, what that person is going to be doing, and who gets the benefit?

If you jump onto my website, you’ll see that I’ve drafted a short article about work experience, and it gives you some of the key criteria here, and some of the things that you need to think of. The purpose for the work experience. You need to think of who’s … The more productive the work, the more likely the person is undertaking work as an employee. Okay. If you do jump on there, have a good read of that. Hopefully that will be able to provide you with some help. Remember that the ATO provides a website that outlines the criteria. If you contact them, they may be able to help you there too.

On the Fair Work Ombudsman website, it just basically gives you some brief outlines, and we’re going to go over them today. The key takeaway I want you to have here is an example of an unpaid intern, and an example of a paid intern. Now, an example of an unpaid intern is someone who works there for maybe a couple of weeks. The role is mainly observational, and there’s no expectation that they’ll do any productive work whatsoever. Also, they’re not paid, and they are getting the main benefit from being there.

A paid intern is someone who is perhaps there for a longer period, is required to turn up. An example that they’ve given here is Jonathan, who is a final year accounting student. He’s agreed to do an unpaid internship with an accountancy firm. He’s there three days a week. He’s preparing customer tax returns, and the firm is charging them for his work. Although he agreed not to be paid, the work he did would otherwise have been done by a paid employee, and that indicates that the employment relationship does exist, and that he should be paid for the hours that he works.

If it’s part of a job incentive program, or part of a work experience program at your university, then there are going to be some other criteria, and the likelihood is that it’s not going to be paid work. I would definitely double check that. You don’t want to fall foul of the Fair Work Act with regards to these provisions, and you also don’t want to fall foul to some of the ATO requirements as well. If you’ve got any questions, please contact me on 07-3040-0337. I provide thirty minutes free legal advice over the telephone. Thanks for watching.