Internships are a great way for a person to experience an industry without the commitment of full employment. It is also a way of developing the skills needed to find employment in the first place. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking to start unpaid internships.
  • There are a few different types of unpaid work that a person can undertake. These include work experience, internships and vocational placements.
  • It is important to know the difference between an employee and an intern. The Fair Work Ombudsman states: “if the work would otherwise be done by an employee, or it’s work that the business or organisation has to do, it’s more likely the person is an employee.”
  • If it is found that an employment relationship exists then a person legally must be paid.
  • Vocational placements are slightly different. They are arrangements that are part of an education or training course. They are designed to teach a person the skills necessary to work in their industry. If they meet these requirements under the Fair Work Act then they are legally unpaid.

There are a few things to consider when figuring out whether an intern falls under the scope of an employee.

  • The reason for the arrangement.
  • The length of the arrangement.
  • Significance of the person’s work to the business.
  • What the person is doing.
  • Who is getting the benefit – the person or the organisation?

If you are looking to offer unpaid work experience or internships in your small business it is important to be aware of the types of work people are legally able to undertake. Remember that unpaid work is to be taken for the benefit of the person performing the work experience, and not for the benefit of the business. However, having a new person giving new perspectives on your business can allow for some great opportunities for growth, so don’t be put off! Unpaid work experience and internships can be a great way to learn from new people and better your business.

For more information about unpaid work experience and internships please contact us on (08) 9316 9896 or

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