The position of interns in Ireland is unregulated which can lead to difficulties in employers knowing what is expected of them when an intern is hired.
One of the most difficult problems that can arise is whether the intern is entitled to be paid during the internship. Whether an intern is entitled to claim the minimum wage will depend on the nature of the internship and whether the relationship can be considered to be an employment one as defined in the legislation.
The factors which may result in an intern being deemed an employee include the nature of the work being performed, the extent of the intern’s integration into the business and the level of control exerted by the business over the intern. If an intern is doing work of value for the business in a manner similar to other employees, then it is likely that the intern will be able to assert a right to minimum wage under the National Minimum Wage Act. If however the purpose of the internship is educational then it is unlikely that the relationship would come under the scope of the Act.
Therefore, for a business considering engaging an intern, it is important that the terms of the internship are set out clearly beforehand, especially if it is to be unpaid. The internship should be beneficial to the intern educationally. Similarly, the intern should not be hired to replace a regular employee as this may entitle them to payment.
It is important to note that all interns, irrespective of their remuneration, will still possess basic employment rights to protect them from exploitation. These include entitlements to breaks during the day and a limit on weekly working time. Interns will also be entitled to expect that the employer is compliant with all health and safety laws.