People are the most valuable resource of any company. A number of people, particularly students, engage in unpaid work when providing their services to a business. Unpaid work can take place in the form of volunteers, internships and vocational work. It is essential that businesses understand the nature of the relationship the work arrangement, in order to comply with the Fairwork Act 2009 (CTH) and avoid fines of up to $50,000.

How Are Volunteers, Internships and Vocational Work Defined?

Volunteers

A volunteer works with the main purpose of benefiting someone else, such as a sporting club, school or community organization. Volunteers do not intend to create a legally binding relationship and do not expect to be paid or obliged to perform work. Imposing work obligations and arrangement upon a volunteer, such as a roster, may lead to an employment relationship being established. It is imperative that a volunteer agreement is used in order to establish a clearly defined boundary and set out the rules and responsibilities of the relationship.

Internships / Vocational Work

An intern is typically a student or trainee, who will sometimes work without pay in exchange for skills, knowledge and experience within an industry. The arrangement is a valuable way for people to explore a career path and gain employment with the company.

In order to be considered as a lawfully unpaid internship, it is pivotal that the person is undertaking the work experience as part of an authorised educational course, regardless of whether an employment relationship exists.

The unpaid internship should be regulated by the Fair Work Act 2009 (CTH) where the person learns and develops skills that are mainly for the benefit of the individual. It is recommended that an internship be regulated by an internship agreement, expressing the obligations, rights and responsibilities of both parties.

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Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.