Mythbuster: All unpaid internships are legal

The laws around unpaid internships are confusing AF. Let’s try and break it down for you.

  • If your internship is a requirement of an educational course (such as Uni), it is most likely a vocational placement, which are legally unpaid.
  • If your internship has nothing to do with an educational course (such as one you’ve found while browsing Pedestrian.TV), the internship is legally unpaid as long as you’re not in an employment relationship. BUT, if you ARE in an employment relationship, your internship may be illegal.

Whether you’re in an employment relationship or not is complex and depends on your individual circumstances. Unfortunately there’s not one blanket solution that applies to everyone, which is why there’s so much confusion surrounding the issue.

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Let’s play some Q & A to help you understand whether or not you’re being ripped off.

Q1: Is the purpose of the internship to give you work experience or to get you to do work to help with the ordinary operation of the business?

A: To give me work experience.
Great! Keep doing what you’re doing.

A: To help them with the ordinary operation of the business.
This is bad. The more productive work that’s involved (rather than just observation), the more likely it is that you’re an employee.

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Q2: Do you feel like your internship has gone for way too long?

A: No.
That’s good news. Don’t be afraid to speak to them about it if your circumstances change as you shouldn’t be obligated to adhere to a strict schedule.

A: Yes
Generally, the longer the internship, the more likely it is that you’re an employee. Get out of there!

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Q3: Do you think you’re doing work that would normally be done by paid employees?

A: No.
Awesome, carry on learning.

A: Yes.
If you’re doing work that would otherwise be done by an employee, or it’s work that they have to do, it’s more likely that you’re an employee.

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Q4: Do they need this work to be done? (Would they have to hire someone to do it if you weren’t available?)

A: No.
Awesome, carry on learning.

A: Yes.
If you’re doing work that would otherwise be done by an employee, or it’s work that they have to do, it’s more likely that you’re an employee.

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Q5: Are you expected or required to come to work and do productive activities?

A: Not really, although I do some productive activities.
Great, you’re less likely to be an employee.

A: Yes.
Oh oh. It’s more likely that you’re an employee if you’re obligated to attend and perform productive activities for them.

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Q6: Who’s benefiting most from you being there as an intern?

A: Me.
Good, you should get the main benefit from the arrangement!

A: Them.
If they’re benefiting most from having your unpaid labour, it’s more likely that you’re an employee.

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Regardless of how beneficial or above board you think an internship is or looks, we think you should be paid for your time and effort. Find out more about how The New Kid can help you.

YES PLEASE

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