Whilst interning offers major benefits for university students, the potential and increasing nature of exploitation can prevent students from participating in these experiences. The best way to prevent exploitation is understanding your legal rights and using this knowledge to seek ethical and fair internships.
The Fair Work Ombudsman Australia provides a set of legal guidelines that employees need to follow when hiring interns. We’ve put together a few of the key legal requirements to help you identify if your internship may be exploiting you
The intern should be gaining the most benefit from the internship
During the internship, a process of education should be taking place; the intern should be taught key business processes and methods, and work on tasks that will help the intern to learn. The intern should not be working on tasks that benefit the organisation or working on tasks that is a role usually performed by a paid employee.
Flexibility & Breaks
The intern should have significant flexibility in their hours and amount of days worked as they are not legally a paid employee of the company. If you are interning for more than five hours at the organisation, you are entitled to a minimum of a 30 minute break.
If the internship is being accredited towards a university degree, then the internship can legally be unpaid. However, if the internship is not university degree related or not a requirement for gaining course credit points, the intern should be paid for their experience and time.
The general length of an unpaid internship is between 1-3 months part time. If you are interning for longer than this specified period, or interning full time, you are more likely an employee of the organisation and should therefore be paid.
There are more legal rules regarding internships which can be found at the Fair Work Ombudsman website. If you feel as though your internship is exploiting you or acting illegally, contact Fair Work Australia, because the only way to overcome internship exploitation is to speak up and know your rights!
Written by Miao Wang