Unpaid Internships

Question:

Our small company is finding ourselves overwhelmed as business picks up. We need extra help, but are not in the position to add to our payroll. Is an unpaid intern a viable option?

Answer:

An internship can be a great way for a company to fill a gap in the workplace, and offers the individual the opportunity to gain valuable experience. Some companies even view an internship as an extended interview, a chance to get to know the individual and a sense of his or her capabilities, outside the parameters and limitations of the usual interview process.

Be careful, however, when considering an unpaid internship. The Department of Labor has very definite rules regarding unpaid internships, intended to prevent companies from using them for cheap grunt work. For starters, the employer must receive no immediate advantage from what the intern does – the position must be for the benefit of the intern. Additionally, the unpaid intern must not replace the work of a regular employee. The position has to be focused on the intern’s learning experience. For example, an intern in accounting must be gaining real hands-on accounting experience, not spending time filing and fetching coffee.

For more information about structuring your internships, consult a strategic HR consultant, or the Department of Labor website, http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf

Strategic HR, inc. provides a variety of resources to help you find the help you need. We offer outsourced recruiting, on-site contract assistance or contingency placement. We can create a plan that’s custom fit for your specific recruitment needs. Please visit our Recruitment page for more information.

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