In Québec interns are considered employees and entitled to minimum wage unless fall within (1) the student exemption, (2) the training exemption, or (3) the volunteer exception.
(1) The student exception states that Québec’s An Act Respecting Labour Standards does not apply to students who work during the school year “in an establishment selected by an educational institution pursuant to a job induction program approved by the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport.” The legislation also exempts students “employed in a vacation camp or in a social or community non-profit organization” from employment standards related to hours of work and annual leave.
(2) The apprenticeship exemption provided in the Commission des Normes du Travail’s Interpretation Guide states that apprentices and trainees receiving vocational training are entitles to wages determined by separate legislation, instead of the provincial minimum wage.
(3) The volunteer exception provided in the Commission des Normes du Travail’s Interpretation Guide states that volunteers are exempt from minimum wage, but cautions that the situation must be carefully analysed to determine that the individual is not performing and, in fact, an employee. The Interpretation Guide provides criteria where individual who are “performing any work whatsoever”, in “a relationship of subordination” or working in a “profit-oriented undertaking” are very likely to be considered employees entitled to wages.
Québec’s An Act Respecting Labour Standards defines “employee” broadly to include not just “a person who works for an employer and who is entitled to a wage,” but also a worker who is “a party to a contract, under which he or she undertakes to perform specified work for a person within the scope and in accordance with the methods and means determined by that person.”
The Commission des Normes du Travail’s Interpretation Guide seems to squarely address the misclassification of interns when it states:
…alleging that the smooth operation of the enterprise does not require the hiring of new employees, that the applicant(s) has (have) no experience or that the workers agreed to work for free does not justify non-compliance with labour standards.
Effective May 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Québec is $10.55 for most employees and $9.05 for employees receiving tips.
Health and Safety Rights
In Québec interns are entitled to health and safety protections based on the definition of “worker” in An Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety:
“worker” means a person, including a student in the cases determined by regulation, who, under a contract of employment or a contract of apprenticeship, even without remuneration, carries out work for an employer…
Similarly, Quebec’s worker’s compensation scheme applies to interns and under An Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases:
“worker” means a natural person who does work for an employer for remuneration under a contract of employer or of apprenticeship.
10….a student is considered to be a worker employed by the educational institution in which he is pursuing his studies, or by the school board, where the institution comes under such a board if, under the responsibility of the institution, he is undergoing a training period at an establishment, without remuneration, or if his case is one of the cases determined by regulation.
13. A person is considered to be a worker if he does volunteer work for the purposes of an establishment, provided that his work is done with the agreement of the person who uses his services and that the latter person sends a statement to the Commission setting out (1) the nature of the activities carried on in the establishment; (2) the nature of the volunteer work; (3) the number of persons doing volunteer work for the purposes of the establishment or who are likely to do it within the current calendar year; (4) the average duration of the volunteer work; and (5) the period during the current calendar year for which protection is requested under this Act.
In Québec interns are entitled to protections against discrimination and harassment in employment under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms:
16. No one may practise discrimination in respect of the hiring, apprenticeship, duration of the probationary period, vocational training, promotion, transfer, displacement, laying-off, suspension, dismissal or conditions of employment of a person or in the establishment of categories or classes of employment.
46. Every person who works has a right, in accordance with the law, to fair and reasonable conditions of employment which have proper regard for his health, safety and physical well-being.
Disclaimer: This factsheet is not legal advice and should not, under any circumstances, be relied upon as legal advice. For assistance with your specific legal issue, please contact the appropriate government department or a legal professional. The Canadian Intern Association does not accept any liability for your use of this factsheet and will not, under any circumstances, be liable to you or any other person for any loss or damage arising from, connected with, or relating to the use of this factsheet by you or any other person.