Media Release

16 December 2018

Daley Labor will ban the practice of unpaid internships that are longer than two weeks unless they are part of a structured program of learning resulting in or contributing to a recognised qualification.

Many young people trying to enter the workforce undergo unpaid internships to get their foot in the door, but currently in NSW the legal status of internships is unclear and often contradictory.

This legal uncertainty can result in a young person being exploited. There is evidence that some “internships” are no more than a device to obtain free labour under false pretences that may or may not result in work.

A Daley Labor Government will require:

  • Licences for internship brokers;
  • High standards for the ethical and fair treatment of interns by brokers and firms; and
  • The Industrial Relations Commission to set pay and conditions for interns suited to their role and experience (for internships longer than two weeks and not part of a structured learning experience) similar to minimum conditions for apprentices/trainees).

Labor’s policy will not affect genuine volunteering situations or internships that lead young people back into structured learning.

In developing legislation, Daley Labor will consult with Interns Australia, unions and employer groups to ensure there are no unintended consequences.

Australia’s only nationally-representative study of internships, the Unpaid Work Experience in Australia, published in 2016, found that unpaid internships have the greatest potential for exploitation. It found 58 per cent of Australians aged between 18 and 29 had participated in at least one episode of unpaid work experience in the last five years.

Around half of the participants did not perform internships as part of a course of study or learning.

This is in addition to Labor’s previous commitment to protect workers in NSW which includes criminalisation of the deliberate failure to pay wages and entitlements and providing minimum rates of pay and the same entitlements to superannuation, annual holidays, sick leave, and all benefits for ‘gig economy’ workers.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley:

“Young people in NSW using internships as a way to obtain credit for the qualification should be free to do so and also protected from exploitation.

“Labor supports legitimate agencies which offer legitimate internships to help young people get their foot in the door.

“Those who want to volunteer for charities would also not be affected.

“I want to ensure young workers are protected from exploitation and there are legal protections in place.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Adam Searle:

“Sadly, some young people spend months in unpaid internship experiences to get ahead and in many cases claims of skill development and mentoring are often no more than a promise.

“There are many instances of exploitative unpaid internships where, far from learning valuable professional skills, interns run personal errands, make coffee and perform menial tasks for little to no reward or skills development.

“Unpaid internships can also help to reproduce social inequality because they require those involved to work for free, sometimes for long periods. This effectively excludes those without independent means, family support or substantial savings.”