The Canadian HR Reporter has a front page page story on the (il)legality of using unpaid internships schemes on the front-page of its current issue. The article focuses on the recent class action lawsuits contesting unpaid internships against the Hearst Corporation and Fox Searchlight Pictures; additionally, it reviews the provisions in the Employment Standards Act, 2000 governing the use of unpaid interns.
I'm quoted heavily in the article and while I can't link directly to the article due to a pay-wall I can share a couple of my more memorable quotes from it. I suggest that "these sorts of position are fairly exploitive, they're unpaid and young people are becoming more aware of their rights vis-a-vis internships. The class-action lawsuits are the next logical step in contesting the position of young people within the labour market." Essentially, my thought here is that Canada's legal culture mimics America's one to a certain extent and often novel legal approaches get pioneered in the U.S. and exported to Canada; furthermore, class action lawsuits are a sensible way to deal with the cases of systemic misclassification of employees (later in the article I even reference the U.S. Department of Labour's duck test, but I digress).
I go on to say that "In Canada, I've seen a number of large corporate organizations that are using this form of employment and misclassifying employees as interns. The environment exists where a class-action lawsuit could possibly work, the trick is you have to find the people - but they're out there." The point here is that as information about workplace laws becomes more accessible to young people there's going to be more contestation of the exploitation, wage theft, precarity, and lack of voice that interns experience.
The final point that I make in the article is the following: "As baby boomers start retiring en masse, there's going to be very stiff competition and if your organization gets a reputation for taking advantage of young workers, it can be quite detrimental." My thought here is that as the talent war begins to heat up there's going to be a vicious fight for workers, if employers get labelled having taken advantage of people when times were bad then they'll lose out on the option of getting the best talent and will have to pay a premium for recruitment, remuneration, and retention.
That's the article in a nutshell, if you're an human resources professional who's running an internship program I'd suggest you get a subscription to the Canadian HR Reporter and read the article as it contains excellent analysis. Beyond that check out my previous blog posts discussing unpaid internships in Canada, see: the legality of internships in Ontario; the complicity of universities in the unpaid internship scam; and, the public policy implications on unpaid internships. Finally, here a great video of Ross Perlin discussing unpaid internships at this year's Left Forum, see: