Attention Federally Regulated Employers: New Rules For Interns
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Federally regulated employers in the private sector should mark
their calendars for September 1, 2020, when changes to the
Canada Labour Code (“Code“) and the new
Standards for Work-Integrated Learning
Activities Regulations (the
“Regulations“) will come into force.
These upcoming legislative changes are part of the federal
government’s ongoing modernization of the Code. The
federal government first introduced changes to the Code
that limited unpaid internships in the federally regulated private
sector back in December of 2017. Almost three years later, these
changes will come into force.
As of September 1, 2020, unpaid internships in the federally
regulated private sector will be limited to those that are part of
an educational program. The legislation refers to these internships
as “work-integrated learning placements”. Employers of
students in work-integrated learning placements can choose to pay a
student intern on a voluntary basis by way of a stipend or monthly
While these student internships can be unpaid, the students will
still be entitled to certain labour standards protections, as set
out in the Regulations. The new Regulations set
out the following:
- the educational institutions at which the student can be
fulfilling the requirements of an educational program through an
- the documentation required to support a student placement that
can be unpaid;
- the labour standards protections for students in
work-integrated learning; and
- related administrative requirements.
Students in work-integrated learning placements will now be
eligible to receive the following labour standards protections:
- Standard hours of work: student interns are
subject to the same standard hours of work rules as
federally-regulated employees (8 hours per day, 40 hours per week,
and entitlement to one full rest day per week). However, since
student interns are not eligible for overtime pay, employers cannot
require them to exceed the standard hours of work set out in the
- Modified work schedule: with the approval of
the student intern, employers may establish a modified work
- Maximum hours of work: student interns may
undertake both an unpaid internship to fulfill the requirements of
an educational program and paid employment with the same employer.
However, the total hours of both positions must not exceed 10 hours
per day or 48 hours per week (with different rules in the case of a
modified work schedule).
- Breaks and rest periods: student interns are
entitled to 30 minute breaks for every five consecutive hours of
work, breaks for medical reasons, breaks for breastfeeding, and
rest periods of at least eight hours between shifts.
- Notice of Shift Changes and Work Schedules:
employers must inform student interns in writing at least 24 hours
before they make a change to the student intern’s scheduled
shifts. Employers must also provide student interns with their
schedule in writing at least 96 hours before the start of their
first shift. Student interns have the right to refuse a shift that
starts within 96 hours from the time that the schedule is provided
to the student intern.
- Employees Under 17: there are restrictions on
hiring student interns under 17 years of age.
- General Holidays: student interns must receive
time off for general holidays.
- Protected Leaves of Absence: student interns
are entitled to take personal leave, leave for victims of family
violence, leave for aboriginal practices, bereavement leave,
medical leave, and leave for work-related illness or injury. The
notice and documentation requirements are the same as for federally
- Maternity-Related Assignment: if the student
intern is pregnant or nursing, she has the right to make a request
to her employer to modify her activities if she provides a
certificate from a healthcare practitioner stating that her duties
cause a risk to her health or that of her child. The employer must
either accept to modify her activities or else provide reasons in
writing explaining why this is not reasonably practicable. The
student intern is entitled to leave while awaiting a response.
Unlike federally related employees, student interns are not
entitled to a leave of absence if: modifying the activities is not
possible, or a health care practitioner determines that the student
intern is unable to continue activities because of the pregnancy or
- Protections Against Reprisals: employers
cannot retaliate against student interns for exercising their
rights under Part III of the Code (Standard Hours, Wages,
Vacation and Holidays).
- Protection Against Sexual Harassment: student
interns are covered by the Code prohibitions against
workplace sexual harassment. This protection will soon be replaced
with the detailed workplace harassment and violence amendments to
the Code, which will come into force on January 1, 2021.
Federally regulated employers in the private sector who hire
interns outside of this work-integrated learning placement context
should be aware that such interns will be employees for the
purposes of the Code. This means that all of the labour
standards protections in the Code, including the right to
be paid at least the minimum wage, will apply to those interns.
The legislative changes described above will only apply to
employers and student interns in the federally regulated private
sector (e.g. air transportation, banks, First Nations Band
Councils, interprovincial railways and road transportation, and
telecommunications). However, provincially regulated employers in
B.C. should also be aware of their obligations when hiring interns.
For the most part, unpaid internships will not be compliant with
the B.C. Employment Standards Act. There is a very narrow
exception for students hired to work in practicums, which are
required as part of a formal education process for students
enrolled in a public or private post-secondary institution and
which will result in a certificate or diploma. The B.C. Employment
Standards Branch does not consider such practicums to be
“work”, and as a result, they can be unpaid.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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