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Blog  »  April 2014  »  Using interns? Are you fully compliant? - Blog
Apr 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Using interns? Are you fully compliant?

Internships are an excellent opportunity for inexperienced individuals to gain valuable experience to kick start their career. They also offer many benefits to employers, helping them identify future talent.

However, employers who offer internships need to be sure they have the correct procedures in place and are operating with the law. In the UK, companies who are exploiting interns are being specifically targeted by the Government. The UK has seen many examples of interns being exploited, the saddest of which was in September 2013 when a 21 year old London intern collapsed and tragically died, apparently from exhaustion after working 72 hours without a break.

Thankfully we haven’t seen such extremes in Ireland, but employers need to be vigilant.

Do interns have any employment rights?

Yes, interns do have certain employment rights. These rights include the right to:

• Annual leave & public holidays
• Appropriate breaks and rest periods
• Protection from bullying and harassment
• Fair procedures
• Data Protection

Polices on the above, as well as Health and Safety policies, should be an integral part of any interns induction.

Should Interns be paid?

In some cases, yes an intern may be entitled to be paid. Whether or not an intern is entitled to minimum wage will depend on the facts of their individual situation, their relationship with the organisation and what actual happens in practice.

Under the Minimum Wage Act 2000, if an individual is carrying out work of value to an employer, has a similar level of supervision and responsibility as the rest of the workforce, they are likely to be entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage, regardless of whether they have the title of Intern or not. There is currently little case law on this, however the Act is broad so it could easily be the case that basic tasks of interns may fall under the Act.

Government Intern schemes such as JobBridge or various FAS schemes are exempt from some employment legislation, however private schemes will not be exempt.

What proactive steps can be taken?

If an employer is satisfied that an individual will be an intern, details of the agreement should be put in writing, clearly outlining the learning objective, training/support provided and schedule for feedback.Internships should generally be kept relatively short. The longer the internship the greater the possibility that the intern will be carrying out work, and acquiring employment status. 

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