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Do Interns Count As Employees?

Written by Angela Finding

If you’re thinking about bringing in an intern, you probably have some basic questions about the parameters and requirements of an internship. However, one of the biggest questions asked by employers and students alike is the same: Do interns count as employees?

For Profit

Employment, as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act, is a somewhat broad idea dictated by a person’s “permit to work.” Because this definition is a bit vague, it’s broken down into “for profit” private sector interns. If a private sector intern is permitted to work, they are legally an employee eligible for minimum pay and overtime benefits if they work over 40 hours a week.

Unpaid Interns

Interns can be unpaid if the internship is for the benefit of the intern, not the employer. Per the FLSA regulations, internships must:

  • Offer training which would be given in an educational environment.
  • Guarantee the internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  • Make sure an intern does not displace regular employees.
  • Employer training gains no advantage from the intern.
  • An intern is not entitled to a job at the end of an internship.
  • The intern and employer understand the intern is not entitled to wages.

These qualities must be met to justify an unpaid internship. However, 90 percent of colleges offer school credit for students with an internship, so the experience balances out the lack of compensation.

While technically unpaid interns are not employees and therefore not eligible for benefits, most interns in the private, for profit sector do legally qualify as employees and require appropriate compensation.

Depending on the size of your business, you may not be able to hire a paid intern. However, if you decide on an unpaid internship, you may have to sacrifice time and productivity to give your intern adequate training per FLSA regulations.

Although unpaid interns are not considered employees, and they’re not guaranteed a job once their internship is complete, more than 50 percent of employers paid their interns and more than half offered their interns full-time employment. THIS STAT IS FROM 2011, CAN WE SEE IF THIS IS STILL ACCURATE?

It’s important to keep in mind that while your intern may not legally be an employee, you can still make them culturally an employee. Connect with your intern, hone their talent, and you may earn an official, experienced employee to benefit your business.




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