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Summer is nearly upon us, and with it comes a whole new crop of college graduates. That means that many of your clients may be considering offering internships.  In fact, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employerscompanies are planning to increase their use of interns by 8.5% this summer.

The majority of these companies are planning to pay their interns, but if you have clients who are considering unpaid internships, this is a good time to remind them of the strict rules and risks of doing so.

In most cases, interns must be paid.  In order for internships to be legally unpaid, they must meet the following six criteria, as outlined in the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fact sheet on Internships Under the Fair Labor Standards Act:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Over the past couple of years, the DOL has been cracking down on illegal unpaid internships, so it is important that your clients handle their internships properly. You may want to suggest that they hire interns on a contract basis and outsource the employment of those interns to a contracting back-office. That way, they can avoid the risk of not paying their interns without taking on the additional costs (benefits, employer taxes, etc.) and administrative burdens that comes with making them direct-hires.

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