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We will compile here the resources that relate to unfair internships. This includes listing the organizations that defend interns, the regulations related to internships and the steps to take to expose an employer that breaches the law. On a related note, we have also compiled a list of Twitter accounts that tweet about unfair internships.

You are invited to contribute by researching the organizations and legislation in the country of your choice. We will share here results of accurate research. If you’re an organization addressing unfair internships, drop us a line.


Generation Praktikum is an association of graduate students from several universities. They want to improve the conditions of interns and replace internships of graduate students with special entry job programs. They publish some research too.

Unfair internships are illegal in Canada too. Here’s what a Canadian lawyer recommends to put  in a contract between an intern and an employer:

  • A clear statement that the intern is not an employee and will not receive any remuneration.
  • Details of the training the intern will receive, how long it will last and how it benefits the intern.
  • Explicitly state that the internship brings with it no possibility of an offer of employment.
  • What the level of supervision will be and who will provide it.
  • Whether the intern’s performance will be reviewed and how.
  • An ability for the employer to end the internship and how it would be done.

Ontario students can apply to internships funded by the ACCELERATE program. It’s CAD $15,000 for 4 months with a nice supervision program.

The Small Business Internship Program provides up to $10,000 to employers who hire interns to update their website.

Youth and Work is the website of a Canadian lawyer who set up this website “to address specific knowledge gaps and information asymmetries in relation to workplace law and labour market issues impacting young people in Canada.”

Spirofrog – A job posting website in German that posts offers from across Europe. They list only fair internship along the lines of the Fair Company guidelines (see Germany section).

Génération précaire (in French) was launched in September 2005 after a call for a national strike of interns. They are asking for a proper status for the interns in the labor law. They have good background information including extracts from legal decisions showing that it’s also illegal in France to abuse labor by using the internship excuse. They have interesting activities (example), including a summer university. If you’re an intern in Frane, you can join them.

Fair Company (in German) is an initiative of the German magazine Karriere (Career) started in 2004. It states 5 principles to which companies have to adhere to join. As of mid-2011, 1500 companies had signed up. It s a good idea to select an internship fromthese companies, but also to remind them of their own commitment if you find an unfair internship among them. It is endorsed by the government, so it should have teeth.

Fairwork eV (in German) was founded in 2004 as an association of graduate students that fight their precarious employment conditions.

Repubblica degli Stagisti (The Republic of Interns) is “an online magazine created to deepen the policy theme of the stage in Italy and give voice to the interns.” The managing editor, Eleanor Voltolina, wrote the book of the same title in 2010.

Apparently, it’s also illegal there. If you want to make a little research to help your fellows, we’ll put it here.

There is an interns association in The Hague that promotes “the professional welfare of interns at UN-related and intergovernmental organisations, by seeking to improve the working conditions, remuneration, and the diverse accessibility of internship programmes.”

Geneva is one unfair-internship-ridden city. With the largest United Nations office in the world, plus all the technical agencies of the UN, it attracts tons of students who hope to work in international affairs. So much of them, that the employers no longer bother to offer a salary to most of them. At least, the Geneva Intern Association now campaigns “to improve working conditions, and seeking fair remuneration” of interns.

United Kingdom
Employment4students explains that internships can only be unpaid if they fall under one of these categories:

  • If the internship is doing voluntary work for a registered charity
  • If the internship is simply “work-shadowing”
  • If the internship is part of your course of study

Another great resource is the document Internships and the National Minimum Wage (2009) from the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills. It answers questions such as “Does it matter what I call the internship?” or”Do I have to pay someone doing work experience?” It also says that if you’re doing an internship in the UK and think that you are being exploited, you should call the Pay and Rights helpline (0800 917 2368). Please do.

For good or for bad, the field is quite divided in the UK.

Actorsminimumwage follows “the National Minimum Wage news as it relates to acting and the performing arts.” Actors, like interns, are victims of the “you should be so lucky to work” phenomenon.

CarrotWorkers’ Collective is “a London-based group of current or ex interns, mainly from the creative and cultural sectors who regularly meet to think together around the conditions of free labour in contemporary societies.” They have a good blogroll too and some of the websites listed on this page were discovered there.

Rights for Interns is a website of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) that “sets out what rights you have as an intern, and sets out how they can be enforced.” It has legal resources for interns.

Graduate Fog provides advice to graduate students, with a special focus on the unfair practices of employers.

InternAware “is a campaign focusing on promoting fair access to the internship system.” They mobilize interns to pressure the government to make sure that companies pay at least the minimum wage. They have a nice FAQ that explains the reasons behind this kind of campaign. They also have a campaign called “Claim Back Your Pay” where they offer to help you gain the money you’re owed.

Interns Anonymous is a UK website set up in 2009 “to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment.” It’s indeed a good place to share your story.

Internocracy is “a youth-led social enterprise passionate about changing the culture of internships for the better in the UK. We work with organisations to support and accredit internship programmes, and with young people to break down the barriers they face in getting an internship.” They have an accreditation program for good internships.

Campaign for Fair Parliamentary Internships was started by Phil Willis, a Liberal Democrat member of Parliament, and as of mid-2011 it seems to be folding now that he’s out of office. Too bad, it is a great angle, given that legislators themselves seem to infringe the law, or at least not lead by example.

National Union of Journalists is a good resource if you’re an unpaid journalist in the UK. has released a pointed survey on the issue and promised to take it on.

Creative Toolkit is a website created by BECTU, the UK’s media and entertainment union with support from the Union Modernisation Fund. It is mainly meant to support new entrants in the media and entertainment sector, but given the widespread abuse of labour in this sector, they have a section about workers’ rights that touches upon unfair internships.

United States
Unpaid internships can be illegal in the United States if they don’t meet some of the following requirements from the Fair Labour Standards Act.

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employers, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
  2. The training is for the benefit of the student.
  3. The student does not displace a regular employee, but works under the close observation of a regular employee or supervisor.
  4. The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the student; and on occasion, the operations may actually be impeded by the training.
  5. The student is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
  6. The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

Take note of the ten exceptions.

There’s a good letter to an intern from the Department of Labor that details those criteria. Note that you can report your employer on the web or by phone at 1-866-4-USWAGE. Or you can write a testimony to inform other potential interns. Even third parties can file a lawsuit against an employer that offers unfair internships. Law firms that deal with the issue include Yasinski & Jones and Schneider & Rubin.

Students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, can join the Rebel Intern program. See post. In New York City, the Foundation Center can help you find a potential source of funding for your internship.

How much should you earn? The minimum wage is $5.85 (or higher) and the average salary of paid interns is $15.99 as of 2007.

Intern Nation is a book from Ross Perlin published in 2011. As far as I know, it is the most extensive look at this phenomenon. is not geared as a campaign against unfair internships, but it takes the market-based approach of weeding out the bad internships through information.

InternBridge is an agency that helps students find internships with a twist: the internships need to come with a legal wage (revolutionary!). They have excellent resources to understand the situation in the US.


13 Responses to Resources

  1. George Darroch says:

    The United Nations, as policy, refuses to pay for any interns. They are a leading perpetrator of this practice.

  2. Ophelia says:

    An unemployed recent grad is what some may call me…yet, I prefer to call myself an “Eternal Intern”. Ever since graduation, hope for Eternal Employment faded, replaced by experiences of Eternal Interning. I have done internship after internship and they all seem to lead to only one thing… Another internship!

    Finally, after one too many internships, I got together with two girlfriends to document our interning experiences. The ups and downs; the uncertainties and excitement; the pain and joy. We call ourselves The Eternal Interns (

    We’ve decided, however, to take this phase of our lives and make the very best of it. Being an intern can be very tough today, but we’re trying to make the best of this situation.

    Thanks for all the great resources. It’s good to know that someone is looking out for the little guy when most seem to be taking advantage of us!

    Ophelia (an Eternal Intern)

  3. Hello,

    I am a relatively young political scientist currently on post graduate education while also looking for employment.

    Like most of us, I have been in the position of intern at least three times so far (a total of one full year) and I recently realised, after my last internship, there is a matter which needs to be addressed-substantial employment labeled “internship” making up for proper employment in the name of “experience” which normally translated to cost cutting.

    I am willing to take this issue further. I have drafted a short ‘declaration’ and I intend to slowly make this cause known and alert people-both interns and non-interns (ie professionals that have been at this position) around the world, for the degree to which an ever-increasing number of companies are practically taking advantage of young people seeking employment and experience.

    There are three exclusions I can think of to the rule:

    if you work VOLUNTARILY whatever your experience or age is,
    if you work as an intern, as part of your under or post-graduate degree (includes research assistant positions in Universities),
    if you work within the framework of a specifically-orientated trial period with the prospect of gaining employment depending on your contribution on PRE-ARRANGED specific terms.

    We think that ANY other kind of employment should be paid according to knowledge, experience and contribution.

    I think it is very important to point out that this initiative is not necessarily aimed against companies rather will seek to work with those businesses or other entities which do have concrete paid internship/work placement schemes or accept students to gain experience AS PART OF THEIR DEGREE.

    We are willing however to fight against all those in all kinds of entities (from research centres which may not be “for profit” per se but do have quite respectable incomes from memberships, projects, state or private funding) who substitute interns for young, entry-level employees avoiding payrolls “pretending” to offer experience.

    We are also arguing for a clear set of labour relations. We are not opposing interns having specific accountabilities in regard to their employment (i.e. showing up at the times agreed or working the amount of hours agreed) but this should only happen the same day a fair internationally accepted code of conduct for people working as interns or within a work placement scheme.

    I am willing to devote time to this cause, I was thinking of starting something on facebook with the name International Forum of Interns’ Rights or INTERFIR and although I did search the web the only site I found linked to this is yours.

    Whereas in America many companies or institutes do pay a small compensation, in Europe the problem is even bigger with research institutes as well as private and large companies taking advantage of the overall situation.

    Please contact me, if you wish, at the above email in case you would be interesting in collectively setting something up initially on facebook and/or other social network sites.

    Thank you very much,
    Alex Giannoulis

    • exintern says:

      Alex – Thanks for your support. I’m glad to see that you have the energy. There are already a few initiatives out there, depending in which country you are. Look at the blogroll on the right-hand side for instance.

      I’m not sure why you would need new rules though. The law in most countries is already clear: free labor is illegal. Look at the Fact Sheet 71 from the US Department of Labor for instance (see posting from April 22 on this blog). Also, your criteria set a lower standard than the current laws.

  4. Mark F. says:

    Great information. Heads up – The Small Business Internship Program in Canada is ending. Last date for applications is currently Dec 2012.

  5. […] Aware, Internocracy, Interns Anonymous and Unfair Internships (which has a large and international resources page). The Trades Union Congress (TUC), too, has a page on the rights of […]

  6. Canadian legal resources Centre presented high-quality paralegal products and services to be able to Canadians and Permanent Inhabitants around North America.

  7. […] Aware, Internocracy, Interns Anonymous and Unfair Internships (which has a large and international resources page). The Trades Union Congress (TUC), too, has a page on the rights of […]

  8. […] The website below is filled with valuable, well-researched information, as well as some one-on-one help for people who feel they have been the victim of an illegal internship scam. […]

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