Williams HR Law LLP

Ministry of Labour Compliance Blitz Changing Employers’ Attitudes Towards Unpaid Internships

May 16, 2014

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2113″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Although the internship provision in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) remains the same, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (“MOL”) has scheduled a compliance blitz from April to June 2014 to ensure compliance with this provision.

The ESA allows companies to retain unpaid assistance (the term ‘intern’ is not mentioned by name in the ESA) only if the following six conditions are met:

  1. The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school;
  2. The training is for the benefit of the intern. The trainee must receive some benefit from the training, such as new knowledge or skills;
  3. The person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern;
  4. The intern’s training does not displace the employees of the person providing the training;
  5. The person providing the training must not promise the intern a job at the end of his or her training; and
  6. The intern has been advised that he or she will not be paid for the time that he or she spends in training.

Where the intern does not meet these conditions, the company will be required to pay that intern at least minimum wage in accordance with the ESA. Exceptions to this rule include school-mandated co-op programs and volunteer work. All other undefined unpaid work is subject to the above ESA definition.

In response to the announcement of this blitz, many Ontario employers, including high-profile media companies Rogers Publishing, Canadian Geographic, The Walrus and Toronto Life have disbanded their unpaid internship programs in their entirety. The Walrus and Toronto Life decided to disband their programs after being issued compliance orders from the MOL during this current blitz.

Ontario employers that retain unpaid help must be well aware of the ESA definitions and regulations with regards to the requirements of having unpaid interns in the workplace. Seeking assistance from an employment law professional can ensure your internship program is in compliance with the ESA.


This blog is provided as information and a summary of workplace legal issues.

This information is not intended as legal advice.