Federal labour standards for interns and student interns

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An intern or student intern is a person whose primary purpose for being in the workplace is to gain knowledge or experience. A student intern is a person who is doing an internship in order to fulfill the requirements of an educational program. Interns and student interns are not considered employees.

Who can be an intern

To be considered an intern in a federally regulated industry or workplace, the activities you perform in the workplace do not need to be as part of a formal educational program. You may be:

  • a recent graduate
  • an individual pursuing a mid-career change
  • an individual returning to the workforce after a period of absence

To determine if you are an employee, consult Determining the Employer/Employee relationship- IPG-069.

Labour standards for interns

As an intern, you receive full protections under Part III of the Canada Labour Code (Code), and your internship has no minimum or maximum duration. You must also be paid at least the minimum wage.

Consult the Federal Labour Standards to know your rights and protections.

Who can be a student intern

To be considered a student intern in a federally regulated industry or workplace, you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • you are not an employee
  • you are performing activities for an employer with the primary purpose of gaining knowledge or experience
  • you are enrolled in a valid secondary or post-secondary educational institution, vocational school or equivalent institution outside Canada
  • you are undertaking the internship to fulfill your educational program requirements
  • you provide the employer with required documentation before the start of your internship, supplied by your educational institution. This includes a description of the activities that will fulfill the requirements of the program and contact information for a person responsible for administering the program.

Labour standards for student interns

In this section:

If you are considered a student intern, the following labour standards apply to you.

Note: not all labour standards in Part III of the Code apply to student interns. For example, as a student intern you may be unpaid.

Standard hours of work

As a student intern, your standard hours of work are the same as federally regulated employees. However, because student interns are not compensated with overtime pay, you cannot exceed the standard hours of work when performing activities for an employer.

Modified work schedule

With your approval, your employer may establish a work schedule that exceeds the standard hours of work. Modified work schedules  must not exceed 40 hours per week averaged over a period of 2 weeks or more.

Maximum hours of work

You may undertake both an unpaid internship to fulfill the requirements of an educational program and paid employment with the same employer. However, the total hours of both positions must not exceed 10 hours per day or 48 hours per week. If you approve a modified work schedule, the hours may exceed 48 hours per week. However, your work schedule must not exceed 48 hours per week averaged over a period of 2 or more weeks.

Breaks and rest periods

As a student intern, you are entitled to:

  • an unpaid 30-minute break during every 5 consecutive hours of work
    • your employer must grant this break in one period, they cannot split it
  • unpaid breaks for medical reasons
    • if requested in writing, you shall provide your employer with a certificate, issued by a health care professional. This certificate must state the required duration and frequency of the breaks, as well as the start and end dates of the period in which breaks needed for medical reasons are to be taken
  • unpaid breaks necessary to nurse or express milk
  • rest periods of at least 8 hours between shifts

Shift changes and notice of work schedules

Your employer must inform you in writing at least 24 hours before they make a change to your scheduled shifts. This also applies if your employer changes your shift to standby or on-call.

Your employer is also responsible for providing you with your schedule in writing at least 96 hours before the start of your first shift. The new schedule must also include any of your standby or on-call shifts. As a student intern, you have the right to refuse a shift that starts within 96 hours from the time that the schedule is provided to you.

Employees under 18 years of age

If you are a student intern under 18 years of age, you can only perform activities in the workplace if you meet the following conditions:

Note: On June 12, 2023, the Canada Labour Code , Part III (Code) and the Canada Labour Standards Regulations were amended to raise the minimum age of employment from 17 to 18.

However, a transitional provision set in the Code allows employees who are 17 years of age prior to June 12, 2023, to be considered as if they are 18 years of age, and may keep their employment if they:

  • remain employed by the same employer, and
  • remain in the same position

General holidays

As a student intern, you receive time off for 10 general holidays per year. You and your employer may agree to substitute a general holiday with another day, however, this is not a requirement.

Protected leaves of absence and maternity-related reassignment

If you are pregnant or nursing, you have the right to make a request to your employer to modify your activities if you provide a certificate from a health care practitioner stating that your duties cause a risk to your health or that of your child. The employer must either accept to modify your activities or else provide reasons in writing explaining why this is not reasonably practicable. You are entitled to leave while awaiting a response. Unlike employees, you are not entitled to a leave of absence if:

  • modifying your activities is not possible, or
  • a health care practitioner determines that you are unable to continue activities because of the pregnancy or nursing

As a student intern, you are entitled to the following leaves of absence:

To take these leaves you must meet the same criteria as federally regulated employees. You must also provide the same notice and documentation required. You are not entitled to pay while on these leaves.

Sexual harassment

You are entitled to employment free of sexual harassment.

Complaints related to reprisals

If you exercise your rights under Part III of the Code, your employer is not permitted to:

  • end the internship
  • suspend
  • layoff
  • demote
  • give financial or other penalties
  • refuse to provide training or promotion
  • take any other disciplinary actions, or
  • threaten to take any such action because you:
    • make a complaint to the Labour Program
    • provide information or assistance to the Labour Program
    • provide information to an adjudicator or a member of the Canada Industrial Relations Board
    • testify in a proceeding or inquiry related to labour standards issues
    • become pregnant, or
    • exercise any leave of absence or any other labour standards protection that applies to student interns

Genetic testing

Employers cannot penalize or threaten to penalize you in any way because:

  • you refused to undergo a genetic test
  • you refused to disclose the results of a genetic test
  • of the results of a genetic test

Receiving pay as a student intern

If you are a student intern, the Canada Labour Code does not require that you be paid and the activities you perform for an employer are not considered to be work.

On a voluntary basis, your employer may choose to give you money that is not connected to the activities you perform. This may include for example:

  • a stipend
  • a monthly allowance, or
  • reimbursement for expenses

International students undertaking internships in Canada

If you are attending a school outside of Canada, you can still undertake an internship with a federally regulated employer in Canada. However, you must meet certain eligibility requirements and apply for a work permit. To learn more, visit Work as a co-op student or intern.

As an international student, you can also be considered a student intern and therefore be entitled to certain labour standards protections and may be unpaid. However, you must meet all the conditions required to be considered a student intern.

Misclassification of interns and student interns

Employers are prohibited from misclassifying for the purpose of avoiding their obligations under Part III of the Code. It is prohibited to misclassify between these categories, such as:

  • employees,
  • interns and student interns, or
  • as a self-employed/independent worker

Your employer is contravening the Code if they:

  • knowingly misclassify you, or
  • have a history of misclassifying employees, interns or student interns

If employers do not take corrective measures, they may be subject to enforcement action by the Labour Program, up to and including:


Educational program requirements

Activities that are a formal part of a program offered by an educational institution. These activities may allow you to receive either elective or mandatory credits.

Valid educational institutions

A valid educational institution is one of the following:

  • any secondary educational institution in Canada that meets the delivery of education requirements in the province where the institution or school is located. This includes, for example, public or private high schools
  • any post-secondary educational institution or vocational school listed in the Directory of Educational Institutions in Canada. This includes, for example, public colleges, universities, career colleges, technical institutions
  • any post-secondary educational institutions or vocational school that a federal department or agency administers. This includes, for example, The Canadian Defence Academy, flight training units and approved training organizations that Transport Canada administers
  • any secondary or post-secondary educational institution or vocational school located outside Canada that meets the delivery of education requirements in the jurisdiction where the institution or school is located

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