September 26, 2023

In Australia, internships have gotten more and more widespread 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 specific 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 incessantly 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 abilities, information, and expertise inside an business. An intern is usually a scholar or trainee eager to enter the business. Due to this fact, most internships are unpaid and proceed for a specified time interval.

Interns are typically anticipated to mirror on their internship expertise concerning what they’ve realized. Generally 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 realize perception right into a sure profession path. 

When you’re an employer interested by recruiting interns for your small business, take a look at our information on rent volunteers or interns.

In line with the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman, unpaid internships are authorized in Australia. Nevertheless, based on the Fair Work Act 2009, the legality of unpaid work preparations is determined by 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 after they’re vocational placements, or if an employment relationship will not be current between the employer and the intern. For an internship to be authorized the next circumstances should 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 abilities 

A main issue that can 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, in truth, 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, on account of being discovered to be an worker, they need to even be supplied with the opposite minimal employment entitlements staff are entitled to. Equally, any relevant enterprise settlement or award ought to apply to the person.  

One other essential issue that must be thought of when figuring out whether or not an unpaid internship is authorized is its function 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 function of the internship is to offer the intern with a useful studying expertise, coaching and to assist them develop their abilities, the internship could be thought of 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 ought to be conscious that an employment relationship can exist even for shorter preparations between employers and people.

Moreover, you will need to take into account 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 quite than an internship.

Do you need to pay an intern?

A standard query small companies ask is whether or not you need to pay an intern? The easy reply isn’t any. Due to this fact, as the aim of an internship is for a person to acquire expertise and publicity to an business, fee will not be 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 should be paid by their employer. Nevertheless, it does state that vocational placements should 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 based on 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 concept and abilities they realized whereas learning in knowledgeable office’. In consequence, internships that meet the Truthful Work definition of ‘vocational placements‘ may be lawfully unpaid.

It’s now clear that internships may be legally unpaid. Nevertheless, as an employer, there are nonetheless a  few essential issues it is best to be aware. Firstly, as an employer, it is best to ensure that all of your interns signal an Internship Settlement. When you don’t have an internship settlement for your small 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 have the ability to use through the internship
  • Time interval
  • Position and tasks
  • Confidentiality
  • Mental Property
  • How the internship will probably be terminated
  • Studying goals/obligations
  • Tools utilization

It can be crucial for each employers and interns to know that this isn’t an employment relationship and that an internship settlement will not be the identical as an employment settlement.  Each events ought to perceive that the first function 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 resolve how lengthy the internship will final with a view 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 could be 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, quite than an employer and an intern you’ll face bother together with monetary penalties. Breaches to the Truthful Work Act 2009 may be as much as $54,000.

Ceaselessly Requested Questions (FAQs)

What’s the function of unpaid internships?

The aim of unpaid internships can embrace the next:

  • To supply a person with work expertise ready or business they’re interested by
  • To evaluate a person’s abilities 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 abilities that can help them in efficiently transitioning into the office following the completion of their research. Whereas the advantage of vocational placements for companies and industries as a complete is that they help college students by offering them with useful studying experiences and growing the variety of graduates who’re ready for work. 

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

One of many foremost 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 may be created both verbally or in writing. Nevertheless, employers needs to be conscious that employment contracts may be created between a person and an employer if the person performs duties which might be thought of work for the enterprise.

An employment contract will probably be discovered even within the following conditions:

  • The place the person and employer say that there isn’t any 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 should be current:

  • An intention between the employer and the person for the association to be legally binding
  • The person should 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 have to be working for a reward (which could possibly be coaching or expertise)


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

When you’re an employer and also you’re not sure whether or not the internships you might be offering to college students are authorized it is best 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 consider there may be an opportunity that there’s an current employment relationship, it is best to rent a lawyer. 

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