Can interns sue over unpaid wages?

If they're part of your current workforce, remember that they’re covered under the Employment Act

Can interns sue over unpaid wages?

What are interns entitled to in Singapore?

Even as companies struggle to keep the business running during the recession, interns may still play a part in its operations – either as a form of staff support or as ongoing recruitment strategies.

Some may also be hired through school partnerships, which remain intact as a course requirement or a traineeship opportunity throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

READ MORE: COVID-19 to have 'devastating' impact on Gen Z

According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Employment Act and Work Injury Compensation Act cover employees engaged under a contract of service. This includes internships if there is a contract of service signed between the intern and the employer.

However, if the internship is served as part of an academic course, they will typically not be subjected to the legal provisions in either Act.

Employers are expected to provide regular feedback to the education institution in this case, and vice versa, as the student shares their experience with the school throughout the internship.

HRD spoke to an employment lawyer to get clarification on an intern’s entitlements.

Generally speaking, there are no clear-cut laws on whether or not companies are obligated to pay interns as Singapore presently does not have legislation on minimum wage, said the lawyer.

Thus, the decision to offer wages to an intern is still left to the discretion of the company.

“[However], an intern employed by a Singapore company would be covered by the Employment Act and is therefore entitled to certain statutory benefits including hours of work, overtime pay, and statutory rest days,” he explained to HRD.

READ MORE: Can HR legally cut out employee benefits?

He also added that if the intern is employed for a period of 14 consecutive days, the employer must issue a Key Employment Term in writing detailing the intern’s working arrangements, salary period, and basic salary.

Besides pay, being covered under the Act means interns are entitled to all the statutory employee benefits accorded to the length of service agreed upon in writing.

Operative word being ‘must’ because if an employer is found to be in breach of those terms, “the intern would be entitled to make a complaint to MOM or to sue for a breach of [the] employment contract,” he said.

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