We’ve all heard the stories of the abused and underpaid intern, ferrying coffees all morning and fetching printing all afternoon. But many people don’t know that as an intern, there are some laws governing how you’re supposed to be treated.
Yes, interns must be paid
First and foremost, interns must either be paid, or working in exchange for credit towards some type of education. There are heaps of ‘unpaid internships’ out there that are actually not legal.
When can it be an unpaid internship?
The only time that employers can offer unpaid internships is if you, as the intern, are not doing anything that a normal employee might do.
For example, if you are just shadowing someone in the company, or observing the work of the company, the internship can be unpaid. But, if you’re doing something that might make money for the company, you do need to either be paid, or doing it for credit.
There are also different circumstances if the internship is a student placement. You can read more about the criteria on the Fairwork Ombudsman's website here
How long should an internship be?
While there aren’t any set rules for how long you can intern for, the longer you spend with the company means that you’re more likely to qualify as an actual employee.
If you feel like your internship is dragging on past the agreed few months you’ve signed up for, without any discussion of an actual job offer or finish line in sight, it’s probably too long.
If you think you’ve been mistreated, or see any dodgy internships floating around, you can report it to the Fair Work Ombudsman who might be able to help you.