School’s out for college students, which means many of them will likely be looking for some on-the-job experience – possibly in your finance department. And they’re willing to forego a paycheck to get it.
That can be a win all around as the interns bolster their resume and you and get some extra (free) hands in Finance.
But be careful: Many companies don’t understand the constraints unpaid internships must work within. And that could get you in some hot water with the Department of Labor.
Recently unpaid internships received a lot of unwanted time in the spotlight as some interns cried foul in how they’d been treated. Which means you could be in for extra scrutiny this summer.
6 tests you must pass
To keep your company’s compliance up, be certain any unpaid internship meets these six criteria from the DOL:
- The person won’t be paid for the work they do in the program. This should be the easiest criteria to meet – just make sure it’s being made crystal clear from the get-go.
- It’s similar to training a person would receive in an educational environment. That means no saddling interns strictly with grunt work that none of your regular finance staffers want to do. It’s tempting to assign these low-level tasks, like filing old invoices, to an intern since it requires little training, but that’s not the intent of an unpaid internship.
- It must be for the intern’s own benefit. Yes, Accounts Receivable will probably get a lift with an extra body, but that can’t be the primary focus. Interns should be given tasks which allow them to take real, practical lessons away from their time with you.
- The intern can’t replace a paid employee. If you are running short-staffed in Payroll, an intern isn’t your solution (remember the focus is supposed to be on their education). You’d need a temp for that. Of course, an intern can certainly work under a paid member of your team.
- Your company can’t receive any immediate advantage from your intern’s activities – in fact, it’s possible they might impede them! Remind staffers it’s completely possible than an intern could potentially slow things down for your department, since time has to be taken out to train, oversee, give feedback, etc. Won’t necessarily be popular, but will keep you in compliance.
The intern isn’t guaranteed a job when the internship ends. An internship can certainly be a testing ground for someone you might want to offer a full-time finance position after graduation. But it shouldn’t be an expectation and never a requirement. Be sure everyone understands that early on.