Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Do Summer Internships Break Labour Laws?

Summer Internships

Are summer internships legal in Canada?

This summer Canada’s firms and businesses will welcome summer students and interns, giving students experience and resume building skills… but are these same employers breaking the law?

Some summer students file things, make coffee, answer phones and play Freecell. Other students get thrown into the fire and help build websites or manage campaigns. So which of these students deserves to get paid? Well, a Toronto-based lawyer says both.

“If you have an intern making coffee or researching articles… then they’re an employee, not an intern, and they should be getting minimum wage and all the other protection that comes with the Employment Standards Act,” said Andrew Langille, an employment lawyer, in an interview with

Langille said that interns are also quickly asked to do many tasks beyond their job description—if their position even has one.

“I would say upwards of 95 per cent of unpaid internships (in Ontario) are probably illegal.”

While this current generation of students is thought of as lazy or complacent, these same students can sometimes take enormous workloads and work 60 hours a week. All they hope to receive in return is a spot filled on their resume, a good reference, or (god willingly) a full time job.

South of the boarder, the U.S. federal Labor Department has promise to investigate companies that fail to pay interns no, or inadequate, money. In Canada, neither the federal or provincial governments have plans to revisit labour laws surrounding Canada’s students.

Ryan Leclaire
Author: Ryan Leclaire
Ryan has been writing for 7 years and has been featured in Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Cottage life.
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