As a college student, I vividly recall walking into an investment bank one summer to offer my services free of charge just so I could learn more about the industry. Unfortunately, they declined my offer.
Although the summer is well underway, it’s not too late to offer an unpaid internship to a deserving student. Such opportunities can be of great help to someone seeking to gain first-hand exposure in a particular field of interest. Likewise, small businesses can benefit as they introduce a new generation of talent to its work environment in the hopes of nabbing that great talent in the future.
Of course, unpaid internships are subject to important guidelines. One of the often-overlooked guidelines is the prohibition on worker displacement. In other words, an unpaid intern should not take the place of an employee who would normally receive a wage. This rule helps to prevent employers from staffing its workforce with free labor, even temporarily, which is not the purpose of an internship.
When implementing an internship policy, the employer should be crystal clear in communicating that no compensation is tied to the internship, and that no paid position is waiting for the intern at the end of the program. Additionally, when determining the validity of an unpaid internship, the Department of Labor will consider the relationship between the intern’s academic coursework and the training offered during the internship, among other things.
Unpaid internships are great opportunities and can be beneficial to all involved. However, employers would do well to consider the rules and guidelines applicable to these internships and should take care to consistently apply its internship policies.