In light of some recent controversy over unpaid internships, we felt it was important to share a recent policy statement by the Ministry of Labour that every HR and Payroll department should be aware of.
What you need to know:
Generally, if someone performs work for another person or a company or other organization and is not in business for themselves, they would be considered to be an employee, and therefore entitled to rights under the Employment Standards Act such as the minimum wage. There are some exceptions, but they are very limited.
Being called an intern is not relevant.
One such circumstance where a person can work as an intern for no pay concerns a person receiving training, but it has very restrictive conditions. If an employer provides an intern with training in skills that are used by the employer's employees, the intern will generally also be considered to be an employee for purposes of the Employment Standards Act unless all of the conditions below are met:
- The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school.
- The training is for the benefit of the intern. You receive some benefit from the training, such as new knowledge or skills.
- The employer derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern while he or she is being trained.
- Your training doesn't take someone else's job.
- Your employer isn't promising you a job at the end of your training.
- You have been told that you will not be paid for your time.
Another exception concerns college and university programs. The ESA does not apply to an individual who performs work under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or a university. This exception exists to encourage employers to provide students enrolled in a college or university program with practical training to complement their classroom learning.
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