How to hire unpaid interns legally and efficiently

An unpaid internship program is a valuable exchange between a business owner and an intern as both parties should receive benefit from the process. The business owner receives work and an insight into what new graduates are looking for in a workplace. The interns receive training and experience in their desired industry. This creates overall positive experiences for both parties. Internships are also a great pathway for hiring permanent staff members as you can experience how potential employees would fit within your business culture.

Where to find interns

Interns can be engaged through many online platforms. LinkedIn, Gumtree and Seek are fantastic resources for finding interns.

Interns’ relationship with management

Can I hire an unpaid intern? 

Internships can be paid or unpaid as it is legal to have unpaid interns in Queensland. It is important that the relationship between an unpaid intern and the business is not an employment relationship. You can protect yourself against claims by having the unpaid intern sign an Unpaid Internship Deed. To ensure that your business is complying with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), you must ensure that:

  • the length of the internship does not indicate an employment relationship exists;
  • the unpaid intern is receiving the main benefit from the work; and
  • the intern is not undertaking tasks that are largely significant to the business.

How long can an unpaid internship be?

There is no set rule on how long an unpaid internship can be. Generally, the longer the period of the unpaid internship, the more likely that an employment relationship exists. For example, a 15-day internship can be considered a reasonable duration. This process has proven successful for our business to find university students with the potential to grow within our business if they were hired.

How do I ensure that the unpaid intern is receiving the main benefit from the work?

Your business can ensure that the intern is receiving the main benefit by providing adequate training for the tasks allocated to the intern. The best practice would include having direct consultation between the business’ management and the intern to provide training and feedback on their work.

How do I ensure that the unpaid intern is not undertaking tasks that are significant to the business?

If the task is essential to the operation of the business and is usually completed by paid employees, this indicates that an employment relationship exists. Therefore, having the intern complete more observational tasks and providing significant training for any tasks given will indicate that an unpaid internship relationship exists.

More information about complying with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) can be found on the Fair Work Ombudsman website (

Internship documents

It is imperative to put a Deed in place when engaging interns to ensure that the guidelines and nature of the relationship are clearly defined. The below documents provide a start-to-finish guide to ensure that your business’ unpaid internship program will run smoothly:

Internship Checklist

This document contains the procedures that need to be put in place before starting your business’ internship program. This includes advertising your internship program, interviewing potential candidates and the hiring process.

Unpaid Internship Deed Template

The Unpaid Internship Deed Template is a contract that will explicitly define the relationship between your business and the unpaid intern. This Deed will further protect your business against claims that the relationship was employment-based.

Internship Manual and Program

The Internship Manual and Program provides information about the business, what the internship will entail and the experience that the intern will gain from the program.

Internship Feedback Form and Supervisor Assessment

The Internship Feedback Form and Supervisor Assessment is to be completed by both the intern and the business at the end of the internship to identify areas of improvement for the program and extensive feedback for the intern.

Internship Confirmation of Deletion of Confidential information

The Internship Confirmation of Deletion of Confidential Information form is essential for protecting your business’ information, especially if you require your interns to work on their own laptops or other devices throughout their internship. The intern signs this form to confirm that they have deleted all the business’ information in their possession.

If you would like to purchase any of the above documents, please click here or contact Business Kitz on 1300 988 954 or by emailing

Legal advice

If you require legal advice or have any questions about our products or services, please do not hesitate to Legal Kitz by phone (1300 988 954) or by email (

The above information has been collected from relevant government websites and is subject to change. For the latest information regarding new or amended legislation, please refer to state and federal government websites.

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