Your questions answered: Is it lawful to accept unpaid internship requests?

By Portner Press on June 26th, 2019
  1. Industrial Instruments
  2. Fair Work Act

Our business has had a number of enquiries regarding prospective interns for a range of timeframes. Some have offered to work unpaid just so they can obtain the experience in our industry. Would it be lawful for us to accommodate this type of unpaid work?
You can use unpaid interns, however you need to be careful with the arrangement that governs the relationship between the interns and your business or you may expose yourself to claims for unpaid entitlements and penalties. You must ensure the correct type of agreement is put in place between both parties.

An internship is a work experience arrangement entered into voluntarily, rather than as part of an education or training course. It should be for a short period of time (less than 6 months), the intern should benefit the most from the arrangement, your business should derive no significant commercial gain or value from the arrangement, the intern’s role should be primarily observational and there should be no expectation or requirement of productivity in the workplace. If productive work is performed by the intern, it is incidental to their learning and not primarily for your business’s benefit.

You could also consider vocational placements, which is an unpaid ‘internship’ that is required to be performed as part of an education or training course.

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