Management December 31, 2014 Last updated September 18th, 2018 189 Reads share

How Employment Law Impacts Organisations Hiring Interns

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Whilst there is no statutory definition of what an “Intern” is in Employment legislation in Ireland, in the majority of cases, an Intern is a person who is engaged in an Organisation with the purpose of gaining an insight and experience of a particular area of business.

A significant number of Interns come to Organisations through university programmes, the Job Bridge Intern scheme, which is a national scheme, or simply on an informal basis for the opportunity to gain experience in a particular Organisation. Workers carry out Internships for different reasons, such as:

  • Attain work experience
  • Apply education to a work scenario
  • Enhance skills and develop new skills through workplace learning
  • Boost their career prospects by being more employable due to relevant experience in a chosen field

About Job Bridge

The Job Bridge Scheme places interns on work experience for periods of 6 or 9 months. The aim of the scheme is to assist people who are currently unemployed, in gaining experience. Interns may be entering employment for the first time having completed their education, or they may be unemployed and wish to learn new skills. The Job Bridge scheme provides that Interns receive €50 surplus to their social welfare entitlements for the duration of the internship.

Rights of Interns

Interns, whilst not protected by employment legislation, should still be provided with the basic rights as afforded to all other categories of Employee. Such rights which an Organisation should be mindful of include, working time, rest breaks and health and safety provisions. Interns should not be taken advantage of, nor should they be treated as though they are an Employee. It is critical that the Organisation clearly identifies and establishing what their relationship is with the Intern – that of an Internship and not one constituting an employment relationship. Therefore, it is important not to utilise an Intern by allocating tasks to them which are similar to those of an Employee. The tasks which an Intern undertakes should have an emphasis on learning, development and be carried out in order to train the Intern in a particular aspect of work. Interns should not be utilised as a means of “free labour”.

Things to Keep in Mind

We have provided some details below as to what Organisations should be mindful of when engaging interns:

  • Set out the terms of the Internship in writing – Detailing hours of attendance at the Organisation, training plans in place, feedback etc. This document should be very simple and easy to follow;
  • There should be a very structured plan in place for the duration of the Internship, to ensure that the Intern is continuously learning;
  • The Intern should be advised of the relevant Organisational policies and procedures that they are required to adhere to for the duration of the Internship
  • Internships should be kept quite short, preferably a few weeks;

Whilst an Organisation may have the best of intentions through utilisation of an Intern and providing work experience to the Intern, if an arrangement is ever challenged with regards to the employment status of the Intern, the Organisation must be in a position to demonstrate that at a minimum the above guidelines are in place.

Images: ”Hand writing Internship with blue marker on transparent wipe board.Shutterstock.com

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Amy O’Sullivan

Amy O’Sullivan

Amy is a HR and Employment Law practitioner, supporting organisations on a wide range of human resource issues across a variety of sectors. Amy works as part of the consultancy team within Adare Human Resource Management, one of Ireland’s leading Employment Law and HR consultancies.

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