Are Unpaid Internships Authorized in Australia?

In Australia, internships have gotten more and more common 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 means of gaining expertise in a selected discipline. Consequently, 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.

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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, data, and expertise inside an trade. An intern is often a pupil 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 relating to what they’ve realized. Generally unpaid internships or placements are required as a part of a pupil’s diploma or course. Alternatively, many college students take part in internships to realize perception right into a sure profession path. 

In the event you’re an employer occupied with recruiting interns for your small business, take a look at our information on methods to rent volunteers or interns.

In keeping with the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman, unpaid internships are authorized in Australia. Nevertheless, in line with the Fair Work Act 2009, the legality of unpaid work preparations depends upon the next components:

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

In easy phrases, unpaid internships are solely authorized after they’re vocational placements, or if an employment relationship just isn’t current between the employer and the intern. For an internship to be authorized the next circumstances need to 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 an alternative of the employer
  • The internship should clearly define that the intern will obtain significant studying experiences, coaching, or the event of abilities 

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, in reality, an worker as an alternative. 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 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 unlawful. 

Nevertheless, if the first function of the internship is to offer the intern with a invaluable studying expertise, coaching and to assist them develop their abilities, the internship can 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 period it’s probably that the internship is an employment relationship as an alternative. Nevertheless, try to be conscious that an employment relationship can exist even for shorter preparations between employers and people.

Moreover, it is very important think about who’s receiving probably 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 it’s important to pay an intern?

A typical query small companies ask is whether or not it’s important to pay an intern? The easy 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 just 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 endeavor a vocational placement. Part 12 of the FWA states that an intern who participates in a vocational placement doesn’t need to be paid by their employer. Nevertheless, it does state that vocational placements need to 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 line 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 principle and abilities they realized whereas finding out in an expert office’. Consequently, 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 you must notice. Firstly, as an employer, you must ensure that all of your interns signal an Internship Settlement. In the event you don’t have an internship settlement for your small business, you should utilize 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 services the intern will be capable to use in the course of the internship
  • Time interval
  • Position and duties
  • Confidentiality
  • Mental Property
  • How the internship will probably be terminated
  • Studying goals/obligations
  • Tools utilization

It will be important for each employers and interns to know that this isn’t an employment relationship and that an internship settlement just isn’t 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 as a result of intern not being an worker that they received’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 as a way to keep away from confusion in a while. The size of an internship sometimes 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, it’s essential to be certain 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 may be as much as $54,000.

Steadily Requested Questions (FAQs)

What’s the function of unpaid internships?

The aim of unpaid internships can embrace the next:

  • To offer a person with work expertise able or trade they’re occupied with
  • 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 confer 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 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 an entire is that they help college students by offering them with invaluable 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 most important methods to distinguish between an intern and an worker is whether or not there may be 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 can 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 received’t be paid for the work that’s being carried out

Moreover, to determine that an employment contract exists, the next traits need to 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’s because the aim of an internship is to offer an individual, normally a pupil or trainee, with expertise within the trade. The worth of an internship is primarily with the intern as they’re able to develop abilities and data in an enriched studying expertise.

In the event you’re an employer and also you’re uncertain whether or not the internships you’re offering to college students are authorized you must rent a lawyer for authorized recommendation to keep away from authorized penalties. 

Contrastingly, if you happen to’re a pupil endeavor an internship, and also you imagine there is perhaps an opportunity that there’s an present employment relationship, you must rent a lawyer. 

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