This is the time of year when many students in high school and post-secondary education are beginning summer internships in their various fields of interest. Many companies in Canada look to hire summer interns in order to provide students with exposure to their respective industries, while also keeping an eye out for burgeoning talent they may want to hire full-time down the road. When a person hears the word ‘internship’, one of the first questions that comes up is, ‘Is the position paid?’

The Law in Ontario

Generally speaking, the designation of an employee as an intern does not lead to the conclusion that the position is unpaid or “underpaid”.

All employees are entitled to the protections of the Employment Standards Act (the ESA), including the minimum hourly rate of pay, vacation pay, statutory holidays, overtime pay and termination pay, regardless of whether the position was labelled as “intern” or otherwise.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are exceptions to this general rule, enumerated in s. 3(5) of the ESA. This statute does not apply to a person who works under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or a university, or by a program approved by a private career college registered under the Private Career Colleges Act.

The theory of this exception is one designed to provide students with practical career training to assist and supplement classroom education.

Employers’ View

An employer hiring a person in a training position should ensure that the requisite precursor of the legislation has been met. An employer cannot simply call a role an “internship” in order to avoid providing the minimum standards required under the law.

A company that abuses this process and unfairly classifies an employee as an intern under this exception or otherwise will face the possibility of prosecution by the Ministry of Labour.

Employees’ Take Away

The employee should likely be aware of internships that aim to pay less than stautory amounts. If an employee feels that they may have been denied proper compensation in a role labelled as an internship, a claim may be made for the resulting financial loss. 

Get Advice and Know Your Rights

If you have questions about this issue or any employment question, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416-364-9599 to schedule a consultation.