Is It Okay To Work For No Money?

Image: LaurMG.
Image: LaurMG.

Many companies train young people through an “internship.”

An unpaid internship is when someone (usually a student) learns a job by working at a company, but doesn’t get paid. Instead of money, they get training and experience.

Two popular Canadian magazines have been told by the government that they must stop offering unpaid internships.

Internships are a good deal for the employers because they don’t have to pay the students. Often they are also a good deal for employees who need experience before they can get a paying job.

Now the Ontario Ministry of Labour has said many of these internships are not legal.

The Ministry says interns can’t be allowed if all the parts of the Employment Standards Act are not followed – like giving interns minimum wage and vacation pay.

There are some exceptions. For example if the intern’s job is part of a college or university program, or if a high school student works for an certain type of “approved” work experience program.

The issue of payment for interns is prompting many legal discussions in Canada and the U.S.

A U.S. judge ruled that some interns who worked on the film Black Swan were working illegally. He said those interns could sue the studio that made the movie.

When companies don’t follow the rules about the rights of their employees, workers often have the right to file complaints against their employers.

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The title of the artilcle is the question: “Is it okay to work for no money?” When you first read this title, what did you think the article was about? What was your inital response to the question?

Once you read the article, how would you answer this question? Do you think unpaid internships should be allowed?

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
This article focuses on people who are not paid for their work as interns. Another group of people who do not get paid for their work are volunteers. What is the difference between a volunteer and an intern – how are they similar and different?

Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Grammar Feature: Rhetorical Question
A rhetorical question is a question that is asked without expecting an answer. The title of the article, “Is it okay to work for no money?” is a rhetorical questions because the journalist does not expect you to answer her. Why do you think the journalist chose to write a rhetorical question for the title of the article? How would it be different if she has written a statement instead?