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  • Considering Working for Free? Some Unpaid Internships Will Cheat You

They’re everywhere, and they rob thousands of young Canadians out of their paycheck, their career, and their personal well-being. They’re illegal according to federal and provincial law, but no one bothers to prosecute it. If you speak out against it, you could be left with nothing. We speak of unpaid internships, endemic to Ontario and hurting young workers everywhere. And the government is doing almost nothing to help.

The Myth Of The Leg-Up That Internships Provide

Unpaid internships are profitable for only one group: the businesses that get away with using them. And business is good as long as young workers, fresh out of a post-secondary education, continue to believe that an unpaid job is in their own best interests.

But here’s what the facts of an unstable labor market, propped up by this practice, can tell us.

  • Ontario residents ages 18 to 24 are twice as likely to be unemployed than those 24 and over.
  • The Ontario Ministry of Labor in no way, shape, or form regulates unpaid internships.
  • Over 70% of businesses polled admitted that they had no intention of hiring interns for full time positions.
  • 37% of unpaid interns will secure employment in their chosen fields. Which looks good, but 35% of non-interns will do the same.
  • On the other hand, 63% of paid interns will find a job in their chosen field.
  • The average unpaid intern will enter the job market 2 years later than their peers and earn on average $3,000 less per year other workers in the industry.

So while students see internships as valuable skill-building opportunities: nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, most unpaid interns do menial jobs, such as administrative work, receptionist duties, or to act as personal assistants to management. It is effectively menial grunt work with no value, purpose, or benefit to those who do it.

An internship could ruin your career, not help it.

Know Your Rights Before You Get Scammed

business hands shaking dealThere are laws against unpaid internships – the only problem is that no one cares to enforce or regulate them. Knowing your rights can help you avoid being scammed by “job creators” who see you as a nothing more than a free worker. While there are internships which are valid and a post-secondary education, there are rules and limits to what is allowed to be a valid internship. Companies in breach of this are breaking the lawv.

Under Ontario labor laws, an internship MUST:

  • Provide training that is similar to a vocational school or learning institution.
  • The training must be for the benefit of the intern, such as the opportunity to learn skills or knowledge relevant to your program.
  • The employer must derive little if no benefit from you working as an intern.
  • Your internship may not replace someone’s job.
  • You must be informed that you will not be paid for your time.
  • Your employer must never, under any circumstances, say nor imply that this internship will lead to a job in the future.

Unfair internships don’t just hurt the interns who earn too little to scrape by; they also hurt the job market by moving once-paid jobs into an unpaid category. By continuing to play into this scam of promising success and wealth by working for free, you’re ensuring someone else isn’t working at all. Above all, making a difference by standing up against unfair internships is one thing the youth of Ontario need to do now.

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