What You Need To Know Before Hiring Interns

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What You Need To Know Before Hiring Interns

Most college students can’t afford to lounge around during the summer months. They need to gain valuable work experience, learn new skills, and hopefully earn a bit of money, too. For them, an internship is an opportunity to experience the business world first-hand.

For businesses, it is a chance to inject your company with enthusiasm, new ideas, and a fresh outlook, not an opportunity for cheap or unpaid labor. When done properly, it’s an arrangement that benefits both parties.

Here are a few things you should know before your company decides on hiring interns.

Paid or Unpaid

Almost all U.S. private-sector employers must pay their interns at least a minimum wage and overtime. The only exception is when the internship has significant educational benefits that benefit the intern more than your company.

The requirements to qualify for an unpaid internship are very rigid. It must provide structured instruction for the intern, aligned with the academic school year.  Once the internship is completed, the intern receives credit for their transcripts.

The work can’t displace a paid employee, both parties must agree the internship is unpaid, and the employer can’t promise the intern a job at the end of the program. If your program does not meet these requirements and you do not pay your interns, you’re in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and could find yourself amidst a lawsuit.

There’s a strong case for paying interns. You’ll attract a more qualified pool of applicants and they’re more likely to focus on your business and your goals. They can increase productivity and profits, strengthen your business image, and improve community connections.

Talk To Your Attorney

Hiring interns comes with risks. State or federal non-compliance can lead to fines, citations, and lawsuits. Discuss your plans with your attorney to ensure you meet regulatory requirements. You may also want to use an employment agreement to set clear expectations and to avoid potential problems.

Review Company Policies & Procedures

Thoroughly review of your company’s policies and procedures before you begin the screening process. Update written documents and develop specific ones for your interns.

You want the intern to understand how to do their job safely and within company guidelines and what compensation and benefits they can expect.

Create a Meaningful Program

Nothing’s worse than taking on an intern and then discovering you have nothing for them to do. Interns need to do meaningful work if you want them to learn and benefit your company.

Introduce them to your company, its goals, and how you see them helping your business. Explain the resources they have at their disposal to accomplish their assigned tasks.

Provide clear objectives and describe how you will review their work. Regular reviews, including an exit interview, are an excellent opportunity for them to receive feedback and a good way to improve your internship program too.

Designate a Mentor

Interns need to know who they can go to if they have a question or concern. Cultivating a one-on-one relationship with someone well-established in your company provides a great learning opportunity and an insider’s view of your business. It’s also an excellent way for an experienced person to see first-hand whether the intern truly understands the work and their responsibilities.

Review Your Insurance Coverage

Hiring interns increases your liability and you’ll need proper coverage. Employment Practices Liability insurance is the most commonly recommended coverage. It has high liability limits and protects you from other possible costs associated with alleged wrongful acts.

If you pay your interns, they’re usually considered employees and need the same coverage as other workers. This includes workers’ compensations and health care. Some exemptions exist under particular circumstances, but don’t presume they’re exempt. Check with your insurer.

Gilbert’s’ Risk Solutions is your business risk expert. Managing risk involves identifying potential problems and planning appropriate strategies. Our company has helped businesses protect themselves and reduce costs for 165 years. Let us ensure you’re well-protected so both you and your interns have a beneficial and worry-free experience.

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