Reader’s Digest Canada advertises illegal internship

Reader’s Digest Media Canada is a “multi-brand and multi-platform” media and direct marketing company. It publishes five magazines, including Reader’s Digest.

Today we came across their advertisement for a “Print & Web Graphic Design Internship.” Based on the contents of this advertisement, it is very clear that this intern would actually be doing the work of an employee. This internship does not appear to meet the criteria under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, meaning the intern would be entitled to minimum wage. To learn more about the law surrounding internships in Ontario and other Canadian provinces, visit out What is the Law? page.

Here are a few reasons why this “intern” is actually an employee:

  1. Duration – the position is full-time for four months (Sept 1-Dec 20, Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm)
  2. Qualifications – the position not only requires a secondary school diploma, but “2 years graphic design/ web design experience at a post-secondary level”
  3. Skills Requirements – ability to use a number of graphic design softwares, such as Adobe Photoshop and Flash
  4. Application Requirements – to apply they require a portfolio containing 8-10 pieces “with a focus on editorial and advertising samples”

The kicker is what is listed under “compensation”: a TTC monthly metro pass. This is clearly not even remotely close to adequate compensation for the work this person would be doing, under the law or just ethically.

The Canadian Intern Association is calling on Reader’s Digest Media Canada to pay the intern that fills this position at least the minimum wage. He or she is certainly a very skilled individual that will be performing work for your company and helping it to generate profits. Plus, if this intern is not paid, we will encourage him or her to file a claim with the Ontario Ministry of Labour for unpaid wages. If you are an intern that wants to file a claim against your employer, visit our Claim Back Your Pay page.

Check out the PDF of the full Reader’s Digest Canada “Print & Web Graphic Design Internship” advertisement:

———————————————– UPDATE ———————————————–

I sent a link to this webpage yesterday to the recruitment person at Reader’s Digest Canada. Today they responded with an email saying that they “take such concerns very seriously.” We can only hope that the people creating the internship were unaware of the laws and will take steps to make sure the internship complies with Ontario’s employment standards. I will be sure to post if I hear anything else from them.

Jainna Patel to appear on CBC’s The National tonight

Today the CBC broke a huge story exposing unpaid internships at Bell Media. The featured intern Jainna Patel was instrumental for the development of this story and she happens to be involved in the Canadian Intern Association. The CBC has also featured Kyle Iannuzzi, the Canadian Intern Association’s VP Operations, who filed an employment standards claim against his employer and won back pay. Tonight unpaid internships will be getting some attention on CBC’s The National as part of their “Go Public stories.”

Get the details on CBC News online – “Bell accused of breaking labour law with unpaid interns”

CBC Radio

This morning Canadian Intern Association President Claire Seaborn went into the CBC studio in Toronto to record interviews with CBC’s local radio stations in Kitchener-Waterloo, Winnipeg, Regina, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Victoria, Kelowna, and Kamloops. Other leaders on this issue, such as employment lawyer Andrew Langille ( covered several other cities.

Continued Discussion

Law & Policy 

The law surrounding unpaid internships varies from province to province and for federally regulated companies. Generally, unpaid internships are illegal in Canada unless they are part of a formal education program administered by a college or university.

Governments in Canada are not doing enough to enforce existing laws and to adopt stricter regulations. However, politicians from some opposition parties are showing interest – Member of Parliament Scott Brison is pushing for Statistics Canada to begin tracking the number of unpaid internships across the country, and Member of Parliament Andrew Cash is advocating for more regulation of unpaid internships as part of his Urban Worker Campaign.

What you can do

  • E-mail us at with internships advertisements. If the internship is illegal or especially problematic, you may find it on our Wall of Shame. If the internship is paid and generally well-run, you may find it on our Wall of Fame.
  • If you are an intern in Ontario or British Columbia, you may be able to claim minimum wage for the hours you worked during your internship. Check out our Claim Back Your Pay Campaign.
  • Check out our What’s the Law? page if you are an employer that wants to meet employment standards or an intern that want to know their rights.

Go Public


Roots Canada advertises illegitimate internship

Today we came across an advertisement by Roots Canada for two openings as a “Communications Intern” in Toronto. This position clearly has a place on the Canadian Intern Association Wall of Shame since based on the job description this internship may violate Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

The internship is illegitimate because the intern is working unpaid, the internship is not particularly educational, and a regular employee may be replaced by the intern. The position prefers applicants with a Bachelor’s Degree, meaning it is probably not for any kind of academic credit. To learn more about the laws surrounding internships in Ontario visit our What’s the Law page and the Ontario Ministry of Labour page “Are Unpaid Internships Legal in Ontario?

Apart from being illegitimate, there are a few other problems with this internship. Since the position is unpaid for five months and presumably full-time, there are a number of people that cannot afford to do this internship. Roots has limited its recruitment to people that have the resources to pay for rent, transportation, food without any income for five months. Limiting access to positions within a company in this way demonstrates a lack of corporate social responsibility.

Finally, Roots Canada should watch out. Any intern that fills this position could file a claim with Ontario Ministry of Labour and Roots could be ordered to pay the intern minimum wage for the duration of the internship. The Canadian Intern Association is calling on Roots Canada to make this a paid position or otherwise comply with Ontario’s employment laws.

If you are or were an unpaid intern and want to get minimum wage from your employer for your work, check out our Claim Back Your Pay campaign that explains exactly how to do it.

You can view the full Roots Canada “Communications Intern” advertisement here:

Canadian Conservation Institute advertises for unpaid work

The Canadian Conservation Institute (an agency of the federal Department of Canadian Heritage) has advertised several unpaid internships on their website. Applicants are eligible if they have “completed appropriate studies within the last give years” or are “enrolled in a post-secondary program.” The program is 8 weeks long and no financial renumeration is provided. Internships are offered in such areas as archeology, preservation services, textiles, photodocumentation, and conservation research. View the entire advertisement here:

These conservation internships are on our Name & Shame Wall because we believe these positions should be paid. The interns filling these positions are sure to be highly skilled and some are likely to hold undergraduate and even masters degrees in archeology, heritage management, and conservation science. This internship is not only for students, but also for those who have graduated within the past five years.

Since the Canadian Conservation Institute is a federal agency, its employees and programs are subject to the Canada Labour CodeEmployees of federally regulated agencies must be paid the minimum wage of the province they take place in. The term “internship” is not found under the Canada Labour Code, but this position could fall within the meaning of “employee” or “dependent contractor,” which are both defined under the act.

Furthermore, the federal government is not following its own policy directive. The Department of Labour has issued Hours of Work – 802-1-IPG-002“ stating that persons must be compensated for the hours that they work if their training scheme is of a longer duration, the person is performing aspects of a job, and a de-facto employment relationship develops. This policy directive supports the idea that these conservation internships should be paid.

The Canadian Intern Association is calling on our federal government to ensure that this and similar internship programs  include payment of at least minimum wage.

Van Fringe Festival, the jig is up

The Vancouver International Fringe Festival is hiring a unpaid intern under the title of “Communications Coordinator.” Since this position is not part of a “formal education process,” it falls within the meaning of “internship” in the British Columbia Employment Standards ActTherefore, it seems based on this job description that this intern is entitled to minimum wage ($10.25 per hour in BC).

Legalities aside, how is someone supposed to work unpaid in Vancouver for almsot 5 months? Working in the arts is hard enough as it is. I don’t doubt that this position would be a great experience, but surely this intern is at least entitled to minimum wage. Some of the responsibilities include “coordinating social media,” “editing content written by Fringe staff,” and “preparing and delivering a final report.” Check out the full advertisement here:

We have already written about employment laws surrounding unpaid internships in British Columbia in our article on HootSuite. HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes responded directly to complains and now the company is complying with employment laws (see details here). The Canadian Intern Association is calling on the Vancouver Fringe Festival to pay their interns!

For more information on internships in British Columbia check out this article by employment lawyer Andrew Langille and the Ministry of Labour’s Interpretation Guidelines Manual.