While not common practice in horticulture in Australia, unpaid work or internships can be lawful, however, a few questions need to be asked and answered in order to determine this.

Firstly, we need to know if the person is completing the work as a vocational placement ie as part of an authentic or recognised education or training course.

If so, it would be considered a lawful arrangement.

If not, we need to know if an employment relationship exists.

The arrangement can only be lawful if no employment relationship exists.

If there is an employment relationship, the person is actually an employee and therefore entitled to conditions under the Fair Work Act which includes a minimum wage.

When looking at whether an employment relationship exists, we need to consider the following factors:

  1. Is the arrangement designed to provide a learning experience or is it to get the person to do work to assist with the ordinary operation of the business?

When the arrangement involves productive work rather than just meaningful learning, training and skill development, it is likely to be an employment relationship.

  • How significant is the arrangement to the business? Is the work normally performed by paid employees?  Does the business need this work to be completed?

The more integral the work is to the function of the business, the more likely it is that an employment relationship exists.

  • What are the person’s obligations?

If a person does some productive work to aid learning then an employment relationship is unlikely to be found.

An employment relationship is unlikely to be found If the role is primarily observational and the expectation to perform work is incidental to the learning experience and is not primarily for the operational benefit of the business.

  • Who benefits from the arrangement?

The main benefit from the internship/unpaid work should flow to the person undertaking the role, not the business.

Further information can be obtained from the Fair Work Ombudsman website: