Lucky for you, our HR Advisor Dina Fergadiotis has taken some time to look at this and has the answers to all your questions!
What is an Unpaid Intern, what can and can’t they do whilst in your business? An unpaid internship is a temporary period of real life work experience completed by a high school or university student. The unpaid internship contributes to a component of their overall qualification. As a general rule, the Unpaid Intern should be receiving the main benefit from the arrangement.
An intern can do the following:
• Take notes and ask questions
• Conduct research projects
• Observe in appropriate meetings and the general operation of the business
• Some productive work tasks to develop their skills
• Filing, printing, photocopying and general administration
An unpaid intern cannot work more than a 7.6 hour day or complete productive or chargeable work that adds value to the business or can be onsold to customers or clients.
How long can an Unpaid Intern remain in my business?
As a general rule, the longer the period of the arrangement, the more likely the Unpaid Intern will be classified as an employee by Fair Work Australia. Our recommendation is that you liaise directly with the school or university the intern is associated with and agree on a dedicated time frame for the arrangement.
So, what is the risk?
Unpaid internships that are not associated with a school or university are considered as unlawful and Fair Work Australia will consider them as employees. Hefty fines may apply and the business will be forced to back pay the individual for the time ‘worked’ in the business.
How can I protect my business?
We recommend providing the individual with an Unpaid Internship Agreement if the Unpaid Intern is exposed to sensitive or confidential information. This document is similar to an employment contract and includes information such as commencement and completion dates, any monetary contributions (some businesses chose to contribute a few dollars as a travel allowance), nature of the agreement, insurances, hours required, confidentiality clauses, intellectual property clauses, non-solicitation clauses, policies and procedures.
We recommend an Unpaid Internship Agreement in addition to any mandatory university documents that need to be signed (eg: personal information forms, workplace safety and insurance forms). This will protect your business and the individual in the event the Unpaid Intern is injured and also formalises the relationship while setting clear boundaries and expectations.
Can I offer the Unpaid Intern a job after they have completed their placement?
Yes! The beauty of an Unpaid Internship is that it allows employers to assess the individual’s personality, punctuality, general performance, cultural fit and overall compatibility with your business whilst they are on placement. If you decide to extend a formal employment offer to the Unpaid Intern, ensure that you assess the requirements of the role properly and provide an official employment contract to the individual. Be sure to pay at least minimum award rates..
If you are interested in taking on an Unpaid Intern, we recommend connecting directly with universities who offer courses within your industry and request for them to advertise on your behalf or send students looking for placements your way.
If you are thinking about implementing an Intern program and would like further advice on best practice processes and your legal responsibilities, please contact the team at HR Staff n' Stuff on 9580 0944 or vial email