Tip 5 – Do you have to pay Interns?
Now that you have a project in mind, the next question is… Do I have to pay my intern? It’s pretty easy to make this determination by looking at the scope of the internship.
- If the intern is doing work that you would have done yourself or had another employee handle then you need to treat them like a paid intern. You must pay them minimum wage or higher. The term intern indicates it is a temporary position and they are not considered an employee. But they could become an employee if they work full time and for more than 6 months then you may be crossing the line between intern and employee.
- If the internship is part of a college/university course then you may not have to pay them. Since it is part of their class requirements it will be used as a learning experience. These types of internships usually require the student to keep a journal of their work and require you as the supervisor to prepare reports and evaluations about the students’ performance. If you can prove that the internship is fully a learning experience and not replacing an employee or not performing work that would be done by an employee if you did not have an intern then you may not have to pay them. However, in this case I would recommend that you consult with a labor attorney so you do not get fined by the Department of Labor.
Overall, be fair. If the intern is learning a great deal, getting credit and only putting in a couple hours a week, then an unpaid internship may be okay. However, if the work they are doing contributes to the success of the company and they are putting in a lot of hours, the intern really should be compensated.
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