Ontario's new act includes greater protection for interns

Student group applauds move but says more must be done around pay

As part of the Ontario government’s proposed Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, “vulnerable workers” includes interns.

The act would include changes to coverage under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that extend to co-op students, trainees and other unpaid learners, as the definition of “worker” includes:

•a secondary school student who performs work or supplies services for no monetary compensation under a work experience program authorized by the school board that operates the school in which the student is enrolled

•a person who performs work or supplies services for non-monetary compensation under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology, university or other post-secondary institution.

•a person who receives training from an employer but who,under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, is not an employee for the purposes of that act because the conditions set out in subsection 1 (2) of that act have been met

•such other persons as may be prescribed who perform work or supply services to an employer for no monetary compensation.

"This is a good first step towards ensuring young workers and students have access to basic labour rights," said Alastair Woods, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. "The right to refuse unsafe work is an important part of improving the working and learning conditions of students doing unpaid work placements."

Students know that work is work, regardless of whether or not they receive a school credit, said Woods.

"The Liberal government needs to work towards eliminating unpaid internships, work placements and co-ops across the province."

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