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Workers Compensation in relation to unpaid interns

Unpaid interns

From 1 July 2020, unpaid interns are considered to be ‘workers’ under the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the Act) and entitled to compensation for work-related injuries.

What is a work-related injury?

A work-related injury is a personal injury arising out of, or in the course of, employment if the employment is a significant factor to the injury. Work-related injuries include physical injuries, psychological disorders, diseases, or death.

However, a work-related injury does not include a psychiatric or psychological disorder arising out of, or in the course of, any of the following circumstances:

  • reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way by the employer in connection with the worker’s employment;
  • the worker’s expectation or perception of reasonable management action being taken against the worker;
  • action by the Regulator or an insurer in connection with the worker’s application for compensation.

Who is an unpaid intern under the Act?

An ‘intern’ is defined as a person who is performing work for a business or undertaking without payment of wages to gain practical experience in the type of work performed by the business or undertaking, or to seek to obtain a qualification; and would be a worker if the work they performed was for the payment of wages.

Who will not be considered an unpaid intern under the new provisions?

The following will not be considered to be unpaid interns under the new requirements:

  • paid interns (they will generally already be covered by the scheme as a worker)
  • any person who is a:
    • volunteer with a non-profit organisation or a religious, charitable, or benevolent organisation;
    • a school student on work experience; or
    • vocational placement through a registered training organisation
  • a person providing unpaid assistance as a favour

Why should unpaid interns have access to workers’ compensation?

Inclusion of unpaid interns in the workers’ compensation scheme was recommended by the 2018 five-year review of the operation of Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme.

How will the unpaid intern amendments affect workers’ compensation premiums?

For the 2019–2020 year, every employer who engages unpaid interns will need to declare the number of unpaid interns in their workplace during the 2020–2021 policy renewal. For the 2020–2021 year, upfront premiums will not be charged to employers engaging unpaid interns, however, any claims or costs, such as wages and medical expenses, will be taken into account as claims experience when calculating premiums for the employer.

School Students, Students on Vocational Placement and Volunteers

There are strict requirements organisations must comply with when they engage a student on a work experience, vocational placement, or volunteer arrangement. For example, these types of students may be covered by different insurance policies and legislation (i.e. the Education (Work Experience) Act 1996 (Qld)) depending on the arrangement. Professional advice should be sought when engaging in such arrangements to ensure your organisation is complying with the law and its requirements.

Useful Links

Workers Compensation and Unpaid Interns

WorkSafe Who should I cover


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