Sattler Takes Aim At Unpaid Internships

Screen capture from Question Period video.

A private member’s bill by London-West MPP Peggy Sattler is on the table in hopes of better protecting unpaid interns.

The bill, called the Greater Protection for Interns and Vulnerable Workers Act, puts most of the responsibility on the employer to spell out for interns what their role with a company will be.

“It requires the employer to determine whether they are exempt from the Employment Standards Act, and if they are, there has to be a written notification about job description, hours of work, leaves of absence, these kinds of things,” says Sattler.

Unpaid internships are currently legal in Ontario if they satisfy six criteria from the Employment Standards Act:

  • The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school.
  • The training is for the benefit of the intern. You receive some benefit from the training, such as new knowledge or skills.
  • The employer derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern while he or she is being trained.
  • The training doesn’t take someone else’s job.
  • The employer isn’t promising you a job at the end of your training.
  • You have been told that you will not be paid for your time.

Sattler says there is currently no solid data that shows how many unpaid interns there are in the province, but this bill would give the government a better idea. However, she does think that unpaid internships are contributing to a high youth unemployment rate.

“What we have been seeing is that those paid entry-level positions are being replaced by this expectation that people perform unpaid work as part of an unpaid internship,” says Sattler. “That’s contributing to higher levels of youth unemployment and it is restricting opportunities for people to get that work experience that they need to transition into the labour market.”

Sattler says only those who can afford to work for free (people in higher income families) are able to enjoy the opportunities of unpaid internships.