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5 Ways to Ensure Internships Meet Compliance

Are you looking to fill positions in your internship program? Here are 5 strategies to ensure you stay in compliance.The New York Times recently published an excellent article on the rise of internships over the past few years.

While internships can bring benefits to both the employer and the worker, companies must ensure that their programs meet compliance.  The Fair Labor Standards Act provides specific criteria that help clarify when an intern is considered an employee (subject to minimum wage) or a trainee (legally eligible to perform unpaid work).

One piece of criteria is that the internship must be “similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.” Another piece states that the intern “must work under close supervision.”

Here are five strategies that businesses can take to ensure that their internship programs meet all of the compliance-related criteria:

  • Work with Schools and Universities: Schools will often sponsor the internship and may offer the student course credit. This can help ensure the internship is providing the necessary training to make it an educational experience for the student.
  • Teach a Variety of Learning Skills: One criteria item to meet compliance states that the “employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” Employers may satisfy this by making sure the intern is learning skills that are applicable in multiple job settings, rather than being specific to your company.
  • Engage Multiple Employees or Departments: There is no doubt that taking on an intern will mean that the employer will have to shift priorities and resources in order to properly train the worker. Rather than putting all of that responsibility on one employee or department, consider allowing interns to observe various aspects of your company operations.
  • Set Clear Expectations Up Front: It’s important that the intern understands their responsibilities and expectations from the beginning of the program. To satisfy compliance requirements, this would include stating that the job is unpaid and that there is no expectation of a job offer once the internship is over.
  • Document Disruption: The compliance requirements state that the “on occasion an employer’s operations may actually be impeded” as a result of an internship program. Thus, employers should document the time commitment required of their employees and also job flow & production disruption.

Additional Tips and Resources

I hope that you find these strategies helpful as you look for ways to succeed with an internship program.

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Posted in: Human Resources, Legislation

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