Interns and unpaid work in your business – be aware that the Fair Work Ombudsman is targeting inappropriate use of ‘interns’ or underpaid ‘trial’ workers

The Ombudsman has released a statement:

“Businesses disguising employment relationships as unpaid internships should know that the Fair Work Ombudsman is particularly concerned with this behaviour as it has great potential to distort the market and create unfairness for both workers, potential workers and lawful businesses” 

Our comments:

Generally, it is difficult to facilitate unpaid work, or paid work at rates lower than award requirements, unless it is through a formal vocational placement. Any other basis comes with significant risk and must be properly documented.

If you are engaging ‘interns’ outside of formal vocational placement arrangements you must consider that any arrangement can only be designed for the person to benefit by gaining experience without any expectation or requirement for the company to benefit or the person to be productive. You must avoid:

  • any reference to the person being part and parcel or representative of the business;
  • any suggestion of direction or control over the intern;
  • any suggestion the arrangement is being used to assess suitability for employment;
  • anything but short term arrangements.

You should also consider other issues such as who owns any work, and how it can be used after the arrangement ends. For instance, an intern who produces literary work or comment is the owner of that work and you may not be able to continue to use or display it.

We strongly recommend the arrangement be properly documented to avoid any suggestion of employment and to confirm how any work produced may be used.

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