So, your company is engaging unpaid interns. If you’ve read our previous article, Unpaid Internships: Guidance for Employers, you would understand that it is lawful to do so.

As the company won’t be paying these interns, there’s no need to have a written agreement in place … right?


While your Company may lawfully be engaging unpaid interns, you could potentially be left exposed if you don’t have a written Agreement which addresses:

1. The fact that they are an unpaid intern:

This one sounds obvious, but it could save a lot of potential trouble down the line. Make sure your organisation has a signed agreement in place which expressly states that this person is performing duties as an intern and not as an employee.

2. Their obligation to maintain confidentiality:

Interns might be unpaid, but they can still be obliged to maintain confidential information. This is especially true if your business has obligations regarding your clients’ confidentiality. You have a duty to clearly communicate this obligation to any intern.

3. Compliance with workplace policies:

Although unpaid interns aren’t on the company payroll, they will have rights and responsibilities arising under many workplace policies. For example, the anti-bullying legislation contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) specifically provides that unpaid workers or volunteers are covered by the scope of this legislation.

You should ensure that you take all reasonable steps to make unpaid interns aware of their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

4. Background checks:

Your organisation may require Criminal Records checks or Working with Children checks to be carried out. This should be noted in the workplace agreement. In the event your organisation is subject to an audit or inspection, for example by the Ombudsman, it’s important to show that you impose these requirements on everyone engaged, including unpaid interns.

5. Workers compensation:

Is your company required to have workers’ compensation cover for the unpaid intern? What about public liability insurance? Save yourself a lot of unnecessary conflict and ensure you’re fully aware of your potential liability for acts done to or by your unpaid intern.

For your free phone consultation, call JFMLAW today on 02 9331 0266.

John Morrissey

John Morrissey

T: +61 2 9331 0266

John Morrissey has been a practising Sydney solicitor for 30 years, and for the past 20 a sole practitioner and the principal at JFMLAW.

His main focus employment law, advising small to medium-sized firms and their employees of their rights and obligations.

For many years he was a lecturer at UTS to students obtaining Masters in Human Resources Management with a focus on performance management and creating a culture of delivery in workplaces. John has acted for a significant number of employers, not only in developing a performance based culture in the workplace but also solving particular problems that arise relating to unfair dismissal, contract disputes, improper use of intellectual property or other property as well as enforcements of restraints of trade.

John is very happy to speak to any employer who has an issue on a free of charge basis by a phone call. Please feel free to ring John at anytime up to 6pm most days.
John Morrissey