Internships have become the subject of scrutiny in recent months with claims of exploitation by employers and a number of employers being banned from participating in the Job Bridge scheme. An internship is supposed to be an educational and developmental experience for the intern, they are not there as unpaid workers to be taken advantage of. A US Supreme Court decision was based on six conditions governing what constitutes an Internship:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
Generally an internship may last from 3 to 6 months, while work experience is generally one to two weeks. The danger, as with volunteers, is the work they do, if there is any form of payment or benefit in kind, and if there is a written contract. Even without a written contract, the type of work being carried out by the intern may be deemed to be actual employment based on case law rather than legislation.
In the case of volunteers, it is actually preferable not to have a contract and to make sure that any expenses incurred by the volunteer are reimbursed based on receipts rather than being unvouched. The law is so vague in this area that an unwitting employer who engages an intern or a volunteer can actually end up having to employ them on a full time basis.