There are differing rules around internships in Australia, and it’s vital not to get caught out as the penalty can be significant.
As a business it can be great to have unpaid interns in placements as part of their studies. Eager to use the skills they have learnt, they will work hard to prove themselves and appreciate any extra training or tips you can give them.
Calling a position an internship, however, does not automatically mean they are unpaid.
If they are not vocational placements, and are actively contributing to the business (rather than simply observing), interns must be paid for their work, according to Fairwork Australia rules.
Whether you’re hosting an unpaid intern as part of the studies, or paying for one, you must remember they are not your full time permanent staff. This may even be their first time in a workplace.
Be clear about the expectations you have for them, by engaging in frequent discussions. Make sure they understand your expectations and encourage them to ask any questions.
As issues may arise as the placement goes on, assign a member of staff to be a mentor for the intern. It makes it less confusing for them to have one go-to person, who can see their progress as it goes.
It is also a good idea to move them around the workplace. Interns are there to learn, not to fill in the tasks that no one else wants to. Use this placement to sit them in different areas, whether it be the accounting team, the marketing team, on the shop floor, or with the receptionist.
They may not be getting paid for the role, but they are probably making the same sacrifices and travel arrangements as any other member of staff. You could offer them stipends to cover the cost of food purchased on site, if you’re in hospitality, or a lunch and travel allowance, if you’re not.
Hosting interns not only helps them practice the theory they have learned. It also gives you the chance to develop someone that may one day make a fantastic employee.