Nearly one-half of companies with interns breaking law: Report

Not paying minimum wage, providing vacation pay most common violations

Almost one-half (42 per cent) of employers with interns have been breaking the law, according to a story in the Toronto Star citing documents from the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

The ministry inspected 56 businesses in the Greater Toronto Area in the spring and issued 37 compliance orders while demanding they pay $48,543 in back pay.

Companies in advertising, public relations, computer design and consulting were targeted and 13 of the 31 businesses of interns were breaking the Employment Standards Act.

The most common violations were for not paying minimum wage or not providing vacation or public holiday pay. Inspectors also found that businesses weren’t keeping proper records of their interns’ hours and remuneration, said the Star.

“Internship” is a term often used to describe a temporary work arrangement that involves a person working at a business in a beginner or junior position, said Stephen McDonald, director of employment standards, in a letter summarizing the inspection results.

“Generally, if you perform work for another person or a company or other organization and you are not in business for yourself, you would be considered to be an employee, and therefore entitled to Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) rights such as the minimum wage.

“There are some exceptions, but they are very limited, and the fact that you are called an intern is not relevant to whether your internship should be paid or unpaid. There are also exemptions for secondary school students in co-op work experience programs for credit or programs approved by a college of applied arts and technology or a university,” he wrote.

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