Interns and student interns– IPG-102
Effective date: September 1, 2020
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This IPG applies to student interns who are:
- in the workplace to acquire knowledge or experience, and
- fulfilling the requirements of an educational program
Student interns are referred to under section 167(1.2) of the Canada Labour Code (Code). They receive certain protections as prescribed in the Standards for Work-Integrated Learning Activities Regulations (Regulations) but may be unpaid. The purpose of this IPG is to:
- describe how the Labour Program determines the status of a student intern, and
- explain in what situations a person may be considered:
There is a need to ensure a nationally consistent approach to determining if, when and how the status of student interns is affected in certain circumstances. This IPG will therefore address the following questions:
- In what situations is a person not considered to be a student intern?
- How does the Labour Program determine who is a student intern?
Student intern status
A person is not considered a student intern in situations such as the following:
- the person is an employee (see example 1)
- the person continues to perform activities for the employer, and
- the end date of an unpaid student internship has passed, or
- the total number of hours of the unpaid student internship has elapsed (see example 2)
- the educational institution confirms that the activities performed by the student intern did not fulfill the requirements of the educational program (see example 3)
- the educational institution cancels the student internship and the person continues to perform activities for the employer after the cancellation
- the internship agreement is cancelled by the employer
- for example, the employer cancels the internship because the student intern is behaving inappropriately with clients
- the student intern's primary purpose of being in the workplace is not fulfilling the requirements of an educational program (see example 3)
- there is no internship agreement in place for an unpaid student internship (see example 4)
- the employer hires a student intern as an employee after the completion of the internship
A student intern’s status may change. For example, if the educational institution confirms that the activities they were performing in the workplace deviated from those described in the internship agreement. The Labour Program will deal with these cases on a case-by-case basis. They will be subject to the discretion of the educational institution (see example 5 and example 6).
Student interns are not required to be paid and the activities they perform for an employer are not considered to be work. The primary purpose of a student internship must be for the student intern to gain knowledge and experience. A student is not considered to be a student intern, even if an internship agreement is in place, if they meet the following criteria:
- the student intern is paid a wage by the employer in exchange for performing activities in the workplace during an internship, and
- they meet the criteria to be an employee
All provisions of Part III of the Code apply in this case (see example 1).
An employer may voluntarily choose to provide a student intern with benefits that exceed the requirements of Part III of the Code and Regulations. This may include providing some financial support (other than remuneration for work performed). For example, a stipend, a weekly allowance or the reimbursement of expenses incurred during the internship. Such payments to student interns are not a requirement under the Code. Therefore, the Labour Program will not be taking any actions to recover any such unpaid amounts (see example 2).
Student interns should address any issues or concerns related to their internship with the employer and their educational institution. If the issues or concerns are not resolved, the student intern may file a complaint with the Labour Program.
Determining the status of a complainant
If a complaint is received, a Labour Program officer will first assess whether the complainant is an employee. The officer will review all the evidence provided by both parties. A complainant may be considered an employee if he or she is:
- paid wages for work performed, and meets the criteria to be an employee
- subject to an existing employment contract with the employer
- enrolled in a provincial apprenticeship program under the respective apprenticeship legislation, or
- in the workplace primarily to fulfill a business need for an employer
If the complainant is not an employee, then the officer will determine if the complainant is a student intern. All interns are in the workplace to acquire knowledge/experience.
A complainant is a student intern if the following conditions are met:
- the intern is enrolled in a valid educational institution* as described in section 2 of the Regulation
- the internship fulfils the requirements of an educational program
- there is an internship agreement, and
- the date on which the student internship was to end or the number of hours during which activities were to be performed have not been reached
*A home school may be considered to be a valid educational institution if recognized by the province in which the home school is located.
Examples related to interns and student interns
Jennifer is doing an unpaid student internship from September 1, 2020 to December 30, 2020, which her university approved. Jennifer received an internship agreement from the university and provided it to the employer. During Jennifer’s internship, her employer voluntarily decides to pay:
- her wages, and
- provides her with a paystub
However, the employer does not pay her vacation pay nor general holiday pay. Jennifer files a complaint for general holiday pay because the employer refuses to pay her. She is unable to resolve the issue with the employer.
A Labour Program officer reviews all the evidence presented by both parties and conducts an investigation. They determine that Jennifer is fulfilling a business need for the employer and is being paid wages for work performed. Therefore, she meets all the conditions to be an employee. The officer therefore determines that Jennifer, as an employee, is entitled to general holiday pay and vacation pay.
Ahmed was doing an unpaid student internship from October 1, 2020 to January 29, 2021 with Tech Telecommunications. The employer paid Ahmed a weekly stipend to help him cover his travel expenses. Ahmed’s employer did not pay him a stipend for the month of January 2021. When his unpaid student internship ended on January 29, Ahmed continued to perform the same internship duties in the workplace. Tech Telecommunications terminated the relationship with Ahmed on February 26. Ahmed filed a complaint with the Labour Program for unpaid stipend for the month of January. He did this because he was unable to resolve the issue with the employer directly.
The Labour Program officer assigned to investigate Ahmed’s complaint reviewed all the evidence presented and confirmed that Ahmed’s internship ended on January 29. The officer also confirmed that there was no extension to the period of internship. The officer decided that, as of January 30, Ahmed was no longer a student intern. Therefore, he was entitled to full labour standards protections under Part III of the Code. The officer found wages and vacation pay owing to Ahmed for his hours worked in February. However, the officer rejected Ahmed’s allegation for the unpaid stipend because stipends do not fall within the scope of the Code.
Fernando, a student intern at ABC Trucking, is doing an unpaid student internship to fulfill the requirements for his payroll and administrative studies. Fernando’s college provided him with the internship agreement, which included:
- a description of the payroll, and
- administrative work activities that he may perform in the workplace
Fernando provided the internship agreement to the employer. Since joining ABC Trucking for his internship, the employer has assigned Fernando to co-driver duties and is not respecting the internship agreement. Fernando has not spent any time doing payroll or administrative duties. He is not acquiring knowledge or experience in the workplace related to his educational program. In addition, the manager has not given Fernando any time off for general holidays.
Fernando is unsuccessful in resolving the issue directly with the employer and the college. Fernando then files a non-monetary complaint with the Labour Program for time off for general holidays. A Labour Program officer investigates. They confirm with Fernando’s college that all of the activities he performed for ABC Trucking were unrelated to the internship agreement. The college also advises the officer that the duties he performed would not count towards his internship hours. The officer determines that the primary purpose of his activities in the workplace were to fulfill a business need for the employer. Therefore, Fernando was not a student intern.
Therefore, the officer:
- enforces all applicable provisions of the Code, and
- retroactively assesses wages and other amounts (including general holiday pay) owing to Fernando for the duration of the internship period
Benoit is a university student who is doing an unpaid student internship from January 2, 2021 to March 31, 2021. In February 2021, Benoit files a complaint with the Labour Program alleging that the employer is asking him to work 9 hours every day. The Labour Program officer assigned to investigate the complaint asks Benoit and the employer to provide the internship documents. However, there is no internship agreement between the employer and Benoit’s university. Therefore, neither Benoit nor the employer are able to provide the officer with internship documents requested. The officer determines that Benoit is not a student intern and is therefore entitled to full labour standards protections under the Code.
Leila is undertaking an unpaid student internship with 687 Trucking Inc. from September 1, 2020 to March 30, 2021. Her college approved the internship. In December 2020, she files a complaint with the Labour Program. She alleges she is performing “unapproved” activities in the workplace that do not align with the activities described in the internship agreement. Leila believes she is owed wages for the time she is dedicating to these unapproved activities.
The Labour Program officer assigned to investigate Leila’s complaint advises Leila that she should discuss this issue with the employer and educational institution. Leila tells the officer that she has discussed the matter with the employer but it has not been resolved. The Labour Program officer then contacts the responsible person at Leila’s college. The person at the college confirms that the activities do not fully align with the activities agreed to in the internship agreement. However, they still count towards the internship hours and are pertinent to Leila’s educational program. The officer determines that Leila is a student intern who is performing duties to fulfill the requirements of her educational program. She is not entitled to wages and, therefore, the officer rejects her complaint.
Chris is enrolled in a media studies program. He is doing an unpaid student internship with Treble Communications from October 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. His college has approved the internship. He performs activities Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. On December 17, the employer asks Chris to perform new duties. These new duties are:
- not aligned with the activities listed in the internship agreement, and
- not related to his media studies program
The employer advises Chris that he has to perform these new duties for an additional 2 hours every day from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Chris asks the employer to pay him for performing these new activities. However, the employer refuses because he considers Chris to be an unpaid student intern. Chris files a complaint with the Labour Program for unpaid wages on December 27, 2020.
The Labour Program officer assigned to Chris’s complaint contacts the responsible person at his college identified in the internship agreement. The officer discusses the nature of the unapproved activities. The college advises the officer that the new activities Chris started to perform as of December 17 do not fulfill the program’s requirements. Therefore, they will not count towards his internship hours. As a result, the college cancels the internship immediately and also advises the officer and the employer of the cancellation.
Based on the information gathered, the officer determines that the new duties Chris is performing do not fulfill the requirements of the educational program. The officer finds that, as of December 17, Chris is no longer a student intern. Therefore, he must be paid wages and other amounts for all the hours he worked since that date. The officer also finds the employer to be in in contravention of the maximum hours of work that applies to employees.
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