On March 28, 2014, two popular Canadian-based magazines, The
Walrus and Toronto Life, brought their unpaid
internship programs abruptly to an end after Ontario's Ministry
of Labour concluded that such programs were being run in
contravention of the EmploymentStandards Act,
2000 (Ontario). The Ministry reached this conclusion when an
inspection last December revealed that the magazines were not,
amongst other things, paying all of their interns. According to the
Ministry, the general rule is that all interns must be paid and
must receive other entitlements pursuant to the Act unless the
interns perform work under a program approved by a college of
applied arts and technology or a university. Another exception to
the general rule exists if all of the following conditions are
The training the intern receives is similar to that which is
given in a vocational school;
The training is for the benefit of the intern;
The employer derives little, if any, benefit from the activity
of the intern while he or she is being trained;
The intern's training doesn't take someone else's
The intern's employer isn't promising the intern a job
at the end of his or her training; and
The intern has been told that he or she will not be paid for
his or her time.
In light of the narrow exceptions above, other unpaid internship
programs across Ontario may suffer the same fate as the unpaid
internship programs of The Walrus and Toronto
Life when the Ministry embarks on an enforcement blitz this
spring. According to the Ministry, this blitz will extend beyond
the internship programs of other magazines to include other
In light of the potential non-compliance of unpaid internship
programs with the Act, Ontario employers who run unpaid internship
programs are well-advised to conduct a review of their internship
programs and consider risk prevention strategies such as (a)
limiting their unpaid internships to co-op placements organized by
educational institutions; (b) paying all interns who don't fall
within one of the exceptions in accordance with the Act; or (c)
eliminating their unpaid internship programs all together.
Please contact us if we can be of any assistance in reviewing
your business options regarding the use of interns.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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