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What do we need to consider when crafting a policy on unpaid intern injuries?

by on
in Hiring,Human Resources

Q. We recently started to provide unpaid internship opportunities to local college students. The interns are not really performing work, but are given the opportunity to rotate through various departments to see how things work. They may be able to obtain college credits. For this reason, the interns are not subject to the same process as other permanent or temporary employees in terms of background checks and workers’ compensation insurance. Now we’re looking at how best to structure this relationship to address issues such as what happens if an intern is hurt at a client facility. How should we approach this?

A. Assuming that the interns are unpaid and are bona fide interns—meaning that your internship program meets all of the Department of Labor requirements for internship programs—the interns are not covered by the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, which applies to “all natural persons who perform services for another for a valuable consideration.”

Consequently, the interns would not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they were to be injured at your work site. You may have some other type of insurance that would cover this situation.

If you paid the interns, they would be entitled to workers’ compensation. You would need to pay them at least the minimum wage. It is also possible that some other type of insurance might apply or that an intern could claim that he or she was hurt as a result of someone’s negligence.

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