September 28, 2023


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Are Unpaid Internships Authorized in Australia?

8 min read

In Australia, internships have gotten more and more standard as companies recognise their worth. Internships are very helpful as they profit each employers and college students. Many college college students interact in internships as a manner of gaining expertise in a selected area. In consequence, many internships are unpaid.

This raises the query—are unpaid internships authorized in Australia?

On this article, we clarify whether or not unpaid internships are authorized in Australia and reply different ceaselessly requested questions.

Learn alongside!

What’s an unpaid internship?

An unpaid internship refers to an association the place a person undertakes structured work expertise at a enterprise for the aim of gaining expertise, data, and expertise inside an trade. An intern is often a scholar or trainee desirous to enter the trade. Due to this fact, most internships are unpaid and proceed for a specified time interval.

Interns are usually anticipated to replicate on their internship expertise concerning what they’ve realized. Typically unpaid internships or placements are required as a part of a scholar’s diploma or course. Alternatively, many college students take part in internships to achieve perception right into a sure profession path. 

If you happen to’re an employer desirous about recruiting interns for your online business, take a look at our information on the way to rent volunteers or interns.

Based on the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman, unpaid internships are authorized in Australia. Nevertheless, in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009, the legality of unpaid work preparations relies on the next elements:

  • The existence of an employment relationship or 
  • Whether or not or not the association features a vocational part

In easy phrases, unpaid internships are solely authorized once they’re vocational placements, or if an employment relationship isn’t current between the employer and the intern. For an internship to be authorized the next situations must be current:

  • In the course of the internship, the intern can’t be required to carry out “productive” duties
  • The internship ought to primarily be benefitting the intern as a substitute of the employer
  • The internship should clearly define that the intern will obtain significant studying experiences, coaching, or the event of expertise 

A major issue that may decide whether or not the unpaid internship is authorized is how it’s structured. For instance, in some circumstances, it may be discovered that an intern is, the truth is, an worker as a substitute. Due to this fact, the person needs to be handled as an worker. On this circumstance, the worker needs to be supplied with the minimal wage that’s legally required for the work they’re performing. 

Moreover, because of being discovered to be an worker, they need to even be supplied with the opposite minimal employment entitlements workers are entitled to. Equally, any relevant enterprise settlement or award ought to apply to the person.  

One other essential issue that must be thought-about when figuring out whether or not an unpaid internship is authorized is its objective and nature. For instance, if the aim of the internship is for the enterprise to make an intern carry out duties that an worker would carry out, then the internship is illegitimate. 

Nevertheless, if the first objective of the internship is to offer the intern with a invaluable studying expertise, coaching and to assist them develop their expertise, the internship could be thought-about to be authorized.

The size of the internship can be essential as a result of if the internship lasts for an extended length it’s possible that the internship is an employment relationship as a substitute. Nevertheless, you need to be conscious that an employment relationship can exist even for shorter preparations between employers and people.

Moreover, you will need to think about who’s receiving essentially the most profit from the internship. Whether it is discovered that the employer is benefitting from the internship greater than the intern then it may be strongly argued that an employment relationship exists somewhat than an internship.

Do you must pay an intern?

A standard query small companies ask is whether or not you must pay an intern? The straightforward reply is not any. Due to this fact, as the aim of an internship is for a person to acquire expertise and publicity to an trade, cost isn’t legally required. The Truthful Work Act 2009 regulates this space. 

Section 12 of the Fair Work Act 2009 defines the time period vocational placements. Unpaid internships are authorized when an intern is enterprise a vocational placement. Part 12 of the FWA states that an intern who participates in a vocational placement doesn’t must be paid by their employer. Nevertheless, it does state that vocational placements must be a part of a coaching course or the intern’s schooling.

Moreover, for the internship to be legally categorised as a vocational placement, it should additionally obtain authorisation in accordance with an administrative association or state, territory or commonwealth laws. 

Internships are additionally outlined as ‘vocational placements’, that ‘present college students with the chance to use idea and expertise they realized whereas finding out in knowledgeable office’. In consequence, internships that meet the Truthful Work definition of ‘vocational placements‘ might be lawfully unpaid.

It’s now clear that internships might be legally unpaid. Nevertheless, as an employer, there are nonetheless a  few essential issues you need to word. Firstly, as an employer, you need to guarantee that all of your interns signal an Internship Settlement. If you happen to don’t have an internship settlement for your online business, you need to use our internship settlement template. An Internship Settlement covers the next:

  • Nature of relationship
  • The phrases of the internship
  • The title the intern may have
  • The amenities the intern will be capable to use through the internship
  • Time interval
  • Position and obligations
  • Confidentiality
  • Mental Property
  • How the internship shall be terminated
  • Studying goals/obligations
  • Tools utilization

It is crucial for each employers and interns to grasp that this isn’t an employment relationship and that an internship settlement isn’t the identical as an employment settlement.  Each events ought to perceive that the first objective of the internship is for the intern to look at the enterprise’s operations and study from sensible expertise.

 It’s additionally essential to notice that because of the intern not being an worker that they gained’t be entitled to any go away advantages akin to sick go away or annual go away.

Earlier than the internship begins, each events ought to determine how lengthy the internship will final with the intention to keep away from confusion in a while. The size of an internship usually varies from 4-12 weeks, both as blocks of full-time work or as part-time work, which might even be between 1-2 days of labor per week. As an employer, you need to make sure that you don’t mischaracterise the connection. If it’s found that the connection between you and the person is a relationship between an employer and an worker, somewhat than an employer and an intern you’ll face bother together with monetary penalties. Breaches to the Truthful Work Act 2009 might be as much as $54,000.

Continuously Requested Questions (FAQs)

What’s the objective of unpaid internships?

The aim of unpaid internships can embody the next:

  • To offer a person with work expertise able or trade they’re desirous about
  • To evaluate a person’s expertise within the office
  • For a person to have the ability to contribute effort and time to a not-for-profit organisation 

What’s a vocational placement?

Vocational placements discuss with deliberate formal work expertise included in an academic or coaching course. The aim of vocational placements is to permit college students to acquire essential expertise that may help them in efficiently transitioning into the office following the completion of their research. Whereas the good thing about vocational placements for companies and industries as a complete is that they help college students by offering them with invaluable studying experiences and rising the variety of graduates who’re ready for work. 

What’s the distinction between an intern and an worker?

One of many primary methods to distinguish between an intern and an worker is whether or not there’s an employment contract concerned within the working association. Employment contracts between people and companies might be created both verbally or in writing. Nevertheless, employers needs to be conscious that employment contracts might be created between a person and an employer if the person performs duties which are thought-about work for the enterprise.

An employment contract shall be discovered even within the following conditions:

  • The place the person and employer say that there isn’t a employment contract
  • The place the person and the employer have agreed that the person gained’t be paid for the work that’s being carried out

Moreover, to determine that an employment contract exists, the next traits must be current:

  • An intention between the employer and the person for the association to be legally binding
  • The person will need to have dedicated to work for the enterprise’s profit
  • The person can’t carry out the work as a part of their very own enterprise
  • The person should be working for a reward (which could possibly be coaching or expertise)


To conclude, unpaid internships are authorized. It’s because the aim of an internship is to offer an individual, often a scholar or trainee, with expertise within the trade. The worth of an internship is primarily with the intern as they’re able to develop expertise and data in an enriched studying expertise.

If you happen to’re an employer and also you’re not sure whether or not the internships you’re offering to college students are authorized you need to rent a lawyer for authorized recommendation to keep away from authorized penalties. 

Contrastingly, in case you’re a scholar enterprise an internship, and also you imagine there may be an opportunity that there’s an current employment relationship, you need to rent a lawyer. 

A lawyer can offer you authorized recommendation that will help you decide whether or not you’re an worker and that you need to be paid for the work that you’re doing.

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