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Ottawa moves to end unpaid internships

Liberals end unpaid internships, unless part of school program.

Liberal labour minister Patty Hajdu


Liberal labour minister Patty Hajdu

A change introduced in the budget last week is closing the door on unpaid internships.

The Liberals introduced proposed changes to the Labour Code as part of the budget, which is passed, will prohibit companies from offering unpaid internships unless they are part of a program with a post-secondary institution.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said they believe interns should be paid for the work they’re doing and they wanted to close the loophole.

“They can be unfair and exploitative if there is not some pretty strong guidelines around them,” she said of the unpaid internships.

She said there are few scenarios that call for unpaid internships and this will limit it to those options with schools watching closely.

She said the move will also ensure interns are covered by labour standards and won’t be taken advantage of for wanting to help.

“Young people are hopeful and they want to prove to employers that they’re reliable and they have the skills employers are looking for,” she said.

Claire Seaborn, chair of the advisory board for the Canadian Intern Association, said the change is overdue.

“The next step would certainly be that interns be paid even if they are part of a school program,” she said.

Only a handful of sectors are regulated by the federal government, including banking, transportation and telecommunications. Seaborn said this change will catch the federal government up to where the provinces already are.  

She said the public realizes these internships are unfair and is starting to demand change and she doesn’t believe companies will drop internship programs just because they have to pay minimum wage.

“It has a lot more to do with public pressure.”

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