This past April, the US Department of Labor released new standards for internships, in particular with specific criteria for unpaid internships. The new law states that an unpaid internship is fair if it passes a test with six criteria, which can be found here. With the number of unpaid internships steadily growing as employees cut costs and students eager to gain experience, what does this mean for all of you currently working at an unpaid internship or looking to do one in the future?
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, some campus officials voiced concerns saying that the new guidelines will scare off long-time employers, diminishing the number of internships available for students. With tougher stipulations, employers may also feel pressure to make sure their training benefits the intern and thereby only allow internships for those who want to obtain credit. This logic poses a problem because those who already have to cover their own living costs in order to hold down an unpaid internship now also face tuition costs for obtaining credit for internships.
Others, including school officials and students , support the new guidelines as a way to make sure employers don’t take advantage of eager and motivated interns as free labor. To many, past violations—such as having unpaid interns displace regular employees without proper supervision or proper benefits—have made it necessary to issue new rules on intern labor. The recent internship guidelines can be seen as a way to empower unpaid interns, often rendered voiceless and complaint-less for fear of putting their future career aspirations in jeopardy. Supporters also point out that the new law increases opportunities for those who can’t afford to work without pay so that they can apply for previously unpaid internships that were more accessible to those who didn’t need to earn money. All in all, the idea is that these new criteria can ensure that students who have unpaid internships will gain a truly educational experience.
What do you think? Are these stipulations helpful to interns? Do you have an unpaid internship or do you have plans to look for one?