September 29, 2023


Learn Business From Experience

Are Unpaid Internships Authorized in Australia?

8 min read

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 have interaction in internships as a means 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 regularly 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 expertise, information, and expertise inside an business. An intern is usually a pupil or trainee desirous to enter the business. Subsequently, most internships are unpaid and proceed for a specified time interval.

Interns are usually anticipated to mirror on their internship expertise concerning what they’ve discovered. Typically 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. 

Should you’re an employer fascinated by recruiting interns for your online business, try our information on easy methods to rent volunteers or interns.

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

  • 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 once they’re vocational placements, or if an employment relationship is just not current between the employer and the intern. For an internship to be authorized the next circumstances must be current:

  • Through 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 expertise 

A main 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 actual fact, an worker as an alternative. Subsequently, 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-about 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 against the law. 

Nevertheless, if the first function of the internship is to offer the intern with a helpful studying expertise, coaching and to assist them develop their expertise, the internship could be thought-about to be authorized.

The size of the internship can also be essential as a result of if the internship lasts for an extended length it’s seemingly that the internship is an employment relationship as an alternative. Nevertheless, you have to be conscious that an employment relationship can exist even for shorter preparations between employers and people.

Moreover, it is very important contemplate 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 fairly than an internship.

Do you must pay an intern?

A standard query small companies ask is whether or not you must pay an intern? The straightforward reply isn’t any. Subsequently, as the aim of an internship is for a person to acquire expertise and publicity to an business, cost is just not legally required. The Honest 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 must be paid by their employer. Nevertheless, it does state that vocational placements must be a part of a coaching course or the intern’s training.

Moreover, for the internship to be legally categorised as a vocational placement, it should additionally obtain authorisation in keeping 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 idea and expertise they discovered whereas finding out in knowledgeable office’. In consequence, internships that meet the Honest Work definition of ‘vocational placements‘ might be lawfully unpaid.

It’s now clear that internships might be legally unpaid. Nevertheless, as an employer, there are nonetheless a  few necessary issues it’s best to notice. Firstly, as an employer, it’s best to make it possible for all of your interns signal an Internship Settlement. Should you don’t have an internship settlement for your online 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 have the ability to use in the course of the internship
  • Time interval
  • Function and duties
  • Confidentiality
  • Mental Property
  • How the internship will probably be terminated
  • Studying goals/obligations
  • Tools utilization

It is vital for each employers and interns to know that this isn’t an employment relationship and that an internship settlement is just not the identical as an employment settlement.  Each events ought to perceive that the first function of the internship is for the intern to watch the enterprise’s operations and study from sensible expertise.

 It’s additionally necessary to notice that as a result of intern not being an worker that they gained’t be entitled to any go away advantages resembling sick go away or annual go away.

Earlier than the internship begins, each events ought to resolve how lengthy the internship will final in an effort 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 may even be between 1-2 days of labor per week. As an employer, it’s essential to 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, fairly than an employer and an intern you’ll face hassle together with monetary penalties. Breaches to the Honest Work Act 2009 might be as much as $54,000.

Continuously 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 business they’re fascinated by
  • To evaluate a person’s expertise 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 check 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 expertise 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 helpful 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 fundamental 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 might be created both verbally or in writing. Nevertheless, employers needs to be conscious that employment contracts might be created between a person and an employer if the person performs duties which can be thought-about 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 a 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 ascertain that an employment contract exists, the next traits must be current:

  • An intention between the employer and the person for the association to be legally binding
  • The person will need to 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, often a pupil or trainee, with expertise within the business. The worth of an internship is primarily with the intern as they can develop expertise and information in an enriched studying expertise.

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

Contrastingly, when you’re a pupil endeavor an internship, and also you consider there could be an opportunity that there’s an present employment relationship, it’s best to rent a lawyer. 

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

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