INTERNS: EXPERIENCE OR EXPLOITATION? Interns have long been a staple of the workforce in Australia and New Zealand, but are you unknowingly exploiting these workers? Chloe Taylor asks the experts IN RECENT months, internships have hit the headlines following scandals around pay and conditions. While one Australian law firm ruffled feathers by charging interns $22,000 for the privilege of securing a placement, Melbourne-based Crocmedia was fined $24,000 earlier this year, after the company had interns working full-time for up to a year with no pay. On the international stage, the United Nations caused an uproar in recent months after a young intern from New Zealand publicised the fact that his unpaid internship
had led him to temporarily take up residence in a tent. The debate has, consequently, expanded to become about more than whether or not interns should be fetching people coffee; rather, employers around the globe seem to be finding new ways to come under fire for ‘exploitation’.
Pay provisions So, where do employers stand when it comes to internships? According to Lucienne Gleeson, associate at Sydney firm PCC Lawyers, Crocmedia
breached several sections of the Fair Work Act by not paying its interns. Under the National Minimum Wage Order, says Gleeson, employers are required to pay anyone working full-time a rate at least equal to the national minimum wage – including casual loading, where appropriate. “Significantly, the two individuals were, at the time of their employment, award and enterprise agreement-free,” Gleeson tells HRD. “If they had been covered by an award or enterprise, then it could also have been alleged that the employer breached sections
A HISTORY OF THE INTERNSHIP Internships are accepted by many as an inevitable rung on the career ladder in today’s world – but how did they come to be?
11th–12th century Europe Internships descend from the professional apprenticeships that originated with the European trade guilds of this era. Master craftsmen and tradesmen would take in young learners, who would complete menial tasks. Apprentices served one master for the majority of their teen years, and eventually graduated to roles that provided better wages.
1890s–1920s Fields such as medicine begin to adapt the practical experience of apprenticeships alongside scientific, lecture-based learning. “There had always been an apprenticeship in medicine, but now it became a standard part of education, an internship,” says Sanford Jacoby, professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
1918 After the First World War, the term ‘intern’ – previously employed in the medical profession to define a person with a degree but without a licence to practice – becomes a term for a physician in training, as medical school is no longer seen as preparation enough for practice.
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