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Must we pay interns and give them benefits?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. We are still getting requests from students to work for free. We know we have to pay them minimum wage, but do we have to do more? Do we have to pay benefits or give paid holidays? — S.P., Idaho

A. There is no legal requirement to provide benefits or paid holidays to any employees. And you are free to design those programs so that they exclude employees who work fewer than a specified number of hours per week or temporary employees.

Note: If the students meet the stringent requirements for being unpaid interns, you do not have to pay them. But you should pursue that route only if you are comfortable that the arrangement meets all six factors required by the U.S. Department of Labor (see "To pay or not to pay interns? The feds are cracking down").

To be unpaid, the relationship has to be for the educational benefit of the student, not for the benefit of the company. Typically, if a student is doing work you would have another employee do, it’s more likely the employee will be considered an employee and not a true unpaid intern.

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