What are your rights as an intern?

Internships are a great way to get exposure to a field of work you are interested in pursuing. Work placements are popular amongst university students as well as people changing careers, and those looking to get more experience under their belt. Despite their popularity, a lot of people don’t know exactly what their rights are as an intern. 

Whether you’re looking for a paid internship or unpaid internship, the lines can become blurred. Good thing we’re here to help clear up any confusion you might have!

What is an internship?

An internship is an agreement between you and a business where you can experience the work they do day to day for a fixed period of time. The ideal internship would provide you with valuable work experience through observing and learning from the business’ employees. Internships can be paid or unpaid but you will always have intern rights that shouldn’t be abused. 

Paid Vs Unpaid Internships 

Obviously, the main difference between the two types of internships is that you receive payment for your time in a paid internship and in an unpaid internship you do not. 

As a paid intern, your rights are similar to that of a regular employee. You should be paid minimum award rates, superannuation, and be provided with a safe working environment; however, your rights do not include unfair dismissal since you aren’t actually employed. 

As for an unpaid internship, your rights are that you are present to learn and observe. If a business is making you do independent work with no supervision that contributes to the profitability of the business, you should legally be getting paid. Your internship should also have an end date if you are an unpaid intern, otherwise it begins to look more like employment. As long as you are there mainly for educational purposes for a fixed period, it’s fair that the business isn’t paying you. After all, they are paying you in the form of valuable experience that you can build on later in your career. 

Ensuring Your Rights

If this post or another source has led you to believe the business you’re interning with isn’t abiding by intern rights, you should speak to the person in charge of the business or your internship. It isn’t fair to you if you are being overworked as an intern, particularly if you are unpaid. 

If you think something is unfair, speak up to the business you are working with, even though it may seem scary. Ultimately, you have to remember that YOU are the one seeking experience from them, and they’re the ones that are getting extra help from you for free, the opportunity is what you make of it. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself in a workplace setting – all experience is good experience!