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Preparing For Summer Internship Programs

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Although half of the country is buried under several feet of snow and enduring sub-zero temperatures, there is no better time to start planning for summer, specifically, summer interns. Your company may have an established internship program or you may be considering interns for the first time. In either case, there are several considerations to be made and it’s important to plan early so your company’s interns can hit the ground running in May.

1. Paid vs. Unpaid

Internships have really gained popularity in the past decade and almost every college senior has completed at least one internship to include on their resume. Along with the increase in the number of internships, there has been a shift from unpaid to paid internship opportunities. In 2010, the Department of Labor released guidance for the qualifications of unpaid interns which acted as the catalyst for increased scrutiny and subsequent changes to how interns are paid. While there is still a fairly even split between paid and unpaid internship opportunities, companies have an obligation to comply with the regulations set forth by the Department of Labor to determine whether or not a particular intern may be classified as unpaid. The complete list of requirements for an unpaid internship can be found here. An important note is that these guidelines apply to for-profit organizations, while unpaid interns are generally permitted in public and non-profit charitable organizations.

 

2. Structure of Program

The type of work and structure of the internship will be closely tied to the evaluation and determination of whether or not the intern is unpaid. If the company hires an unpaid intern, the assigned work and experiences must comply with the DOL’s guidelines. If the company is paying its interns, there is more freedom in the work assignments given to the intern. You must educate the managers and employees who will be working with intern to communicate any restrictions that apply to the work performed by the intern. Advise managers, supervisors, and others not to assign miscellaneous work tasks because they may fall outside of the scope of the intern’s role. While daily filing and photocopying and coffee runs may seem innocuous, if assigned to an unpaid intern, this type of work could create problems for the employer for failure to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

 

3. Benefits Considerations

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers will need to track hours worked for paid interns and offer applicable health care coverage as the intern becomes eligible. Historically, most employers have not offered any benefits for summer or short term interns, however, under the new law interns may become eligible for health insurance at some point during their internship and it is imperative that employers are tracking this and notifying the interns at the time of eligibility. Additionally, employers may have to include interns in new ACA reporting requirements on IRS Forms 1094 and 1095, beginning in 2015.

By taking time to plan your company’s internship program now, the management team will have ample time to evaluate all aspects of the program to ensure legal compliance and a successful experience for the intern and the company. 

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