Changes to Ontario’s Internship Laws

As of January 1st, 2018, Ontario’s internship laws have changed in three ways.

First, the six-part test for trainees not part of a secondary, post-secondary, or professional program was repealed. This means that if you are completing an internship or training program that is not part of a secondary, post-secondary, or professional program, you likely qualify as an employee under the Employment Standards Act and are entitled to minimum wage. Effective January 1, 2018, the hourly minimum wage in Ontario is $14 for most employees, and $13.15 for students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session, or work during a school break or summer holidays.

Second, the student exemption was broadened to include students interning as part of a private career college program. If you are an interning as part of a university, private career college or other post-secondary institution program, you are likely not entitled to minimum wage.

Third, the definition of worker under the Occupational Health and Safety Act was broadened to include those who intern without pay as part of a private career college program. If you are completing an unpaid internship or training program as part of a university, private career college or other post-secondary institution, you are likely entitled to protections under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Click here for a more comprehensive review of Ontario’s current internship laws.

Intern Association applauds review’s anti-exploitation recommendations

May 28, 2017

The Canadian Intern Association (the “Association”) applauds the Changing Workplace Review’s recommendations related to interns. The Review recommends repealing those portions of  section 1(2) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 that allow employers to avoid paying some interns. If followed, these recommendations will significantly clarify and strengthen interns’ rights. The Association encourages the Ontario government to act swiftly to implement these intern-focused recommendations.

“Everyone who works deserves to get paid. There is no persuasive reason to exclude young people, who already struggle with record levels of debt, from basic workplace protections. This Review’s recommendations are a step in the right direction,” said Amy Kishek, Executive Director of the Association.

“The Changing Workplace Review’s recommendation would eliminate one of the few exceptions in Ontario law that allows employers to avoid paying interns. We thank the Review for hearing from Ontario interns who are desperately trying to gain experience while balancing family and financial obligations,” said Joshua Mandryk, the Association’s Ontario Director.

Currently, interns can be excluded from basic workplace protections – including the minimum wage – if six conditions are met. The Changing Workplace Review found that the test is “unclear and difficult to understand” (p. 274 of the Final Report) and “almost impossible to enforce (ibid). In addition, the Review found that “there is no good policy reason to maintain section 1 (2) of the ESA” (p. 275 of the Final Report).

The Association advocates against the exploitation of interns and for quality, paid internships across Canada. Media inquiries can be directed to Executive Director Amy Kishek at 613-404-4054.

Intern Association pushes for protections in Alberta workplace law review

The Government of Alberta recently conducted public consultations related to proposed changes to the province’s workplace laws. The review seeks to update the Employment Standards Code – which covers non-unionized workers – and the Labour Relations Code – which governs unionized workplaces.

As part of its goal to protect interns and promote fairer workplaces, the Association submitted recommendations to both legislative reviews. You can see our Employment Standards Code submissions here (as well as comments on the same subject from 2014 here) and our Labour Relations Code submissions here.

The Association looks forward to hearing the results of the government’s review in the near future.

Exciting new changes in the 2017 Budget

The federal government’s 2017 Budget was released in Ottawa on Wednesday, and the Canadian Intern Association is very pleased to see a positive announcement in defense of intern rights. The Budget includes the following:
The Government of Canada has agreed to ban unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors (with the exception of internships which are part of an educational program). The Canadian Intern Association has been lobbying for this amendment to the Canada Labour Code since 2013, and are hopeful that these amendments will finally be adopted.
“These changes mark an important first step to respecting and compensating the work done by young Canadians and new employees”, stated Claire Seaborn, Chair of the Canadian Intern Association Advisory Board. “We are pleased to see that the government has listened to concerns raised by the Canadian Intern Association and so many of our partners who continue to speak out about the rights of young and precarious workers.”
While federal sector unpaid internships make up a small percentage of unpaid internships in Canada (most are provincially regulated), this amendment will prohibit unpaid internships outside of school programs from some of Canada’s largest companies in banking, telecommunications, and transport sectors.
“We consider this to be a positive first step in the regulation of unpaid internships in Canada. It must be remembered that this change, while important, only covers a fraction of workplaces in Canada. Provincial legislation is needed across Canada to address precarious, unpaid labour that far too many Canadian workers are being forced into” stated Joshua Mandryk, Ontario Director of the Canadian Intern Association. The Canadian Intern Association has recently participated in the Ontario government’s Changing Workplaces Review, and hopes to see further protections against unpaid internships reflected there. 
The Canadian Intern Association is also committed to fighting for wage protections concerning internships that are part of academic programs.
“We look forward to working with the federal government to implementing the Budget 2017 reforms so that they are meaningful and effective in protecting interns from exploitation” stated Claire Seaborn.
This is not the first time the intern question has emerged in the federal budget. In 2015, the Conservative government proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code around the definition and scope of internships. The proposal remained in the consultation stage until recently, with little progression and only tacit support from the current government. The Canadian Intern Association publicly stepped away from those consultation as the proposed amendments fell far short of expert and public opinion. The Budget 2017 proposal has come a long way in addressing the Canadian Intern Association’s longstanding concerns with respect to the Canada Labour Code.

New paper on Work-Integrated Learning by the new paper by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

As experiential education and work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities expand across Ontario and the rest of Canada, a new paper by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) cautions that a lack of clarity on a number of WIL legal issues is becoming increasingly challenging for institutions.

Maximizing Opportunity, Mitigating Risk: Aligning Law, Policy and Practice to Strengthen Work-Integrated Learning in Ontario identifies seven areas for institutions and policy makers to focus on: employment standards, health and safety, human rights, intellectual property, employment insurance, immigration law and tax expenditures. The study found that while only a small number of cases result in litigation, campus leaders and legal representatives are becoming increasingly preoccupied interpreting unclear laws and regulation, mediating disputes and negotiating agreements to address this growing and changing area of postsecondary education.

The report calls for greater clarity and consistency in the use of terminology to improve communication about the legal norms and expectations for WIL; more collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing throughout institutions, students, employers and government; and better and more publicly accessible data about the range of opportunities and experiences available through WIL.

Additional information on the report is available in the following Press Release and Globe and Mail opinion editorial.