The Ministry of Labour is committed to ensuring fairness and protecting young workers. The fact that you are called an “intern” does not determine whether or not you are entitled to the protections of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), including the minimum wage.
Here’s what you need to know: generally, if you perform work for another person or a company or other organization and you are not in business for yourself, you would be considered to be an employee, and therefore entitled to ESA rights such as the minimum wage. There are some exceptions, but they are very limited, and the fact that you are called an intern is not relevant.
One such circumstance where a person can work as an intern for no pay concerns a person receiving training, but it has very restrictive conditions. If an employer provides an intern with training in skills that are used by the employer's employees, the intern will generally also be considered to be an employee for purposes of the ESA unless all of the conditions below are met:
Another exception concerns college and university programs. The ESA does not apply to an individual who performs work under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or a university. This exception exists to encourage employers to provide students enrolled in a college or university program with practical training to complement their classroom learning.
If someone performing work as an unpaid intern is unsure of whether he or she is excluded from the ESA, he or she should call the Employment Standards Information Centre toll-free at 1-800-531-5551 for further information.
All information provided anonymously by employees and third parties to the Employment Standards Information Centre about possible violations is passed to the appropriate Ministry staff for review and for possible proactive activity. It is important to note that not every “tip” results in a proactive activity, and that giving an anonymous tip does not give the individual who gave it any appeal rights. If you have additional questions about the ESA please telephone the Employment Standards Information Centre at 416-326-7160 or toll-free at 1-800-531-5551.