Employment lawyers at McCann FitzGerald have said that a misconception that internships are unregulated in Ireland can cause problems for some employers.
In an analysis on the firm’s website, the lawyers note that internships are relatively common in certain areas of Irish business, and have become an important part of the start-up environment.
They point out that, while there is no definition of ‘intern’ in Irish law, many internships can and do fall within the scope of Irish employment law.
“In general, an intern is understood to be a person who will spend some time with a business, in order to enhance their knowledge of the type of work that the business engages in,” the lawyers write.
They add, however, that a court or tribunal will look beyond any title, and focus on the practical nature of the relationship, in determining whether the intern should be classified as an employee.
Under the Health and Safety Act 2005, all persons in a workplace – including interns – have basic employment rights. More extensive protections, however, are given to those with employee status.
The McCann FitzGerald note points out that interns may be classified as employees if they engage in certain types of work.
“The title of ‘intern’ does not mean that a person has no employment rights, and businesses should avoid any attempt to avoid those rights by labelling a role as an ‘internship’,” the lawyers stress.
Though there is no legal obligation to do so, they advise businesses to have an agreement setting out the role of their interns, the duration of the internship, and any related payment
The lawyers conclude that educative, ‘shadow’ internships are unlikely to create an employment relationship, if set up and operated correctly and within the law.
They add, however, that interns who are hired to do valuable work should be treated as employees, and provided with a contract or statement of terms of employment that complies with Irish employment law.