Rules for Hiring Interns in Canada: A Quick Guide for Employers

  • Recruitment/HR
Interns meeting with manager
Kiljon Shukullari

Kiljon Shukullari, HR Advisory Manager

(Last updated )

Internships and apprenticeships can take many forms within the workplace. In fact, different provinces have different stipulations and criteria for what is considered an internship. There are, however, rules governing these programs under the Canada Labour Code  (the Code) to prevent the mismanagement of interns. This blog provides information on federally regulated workplaces covered under the Code, such as banks, air transportation, telecommunications, and postal services.

What is considered an internship in Canada?

The government of Canada defines an internship as a formal part of an educational program offered by a valid educational institution, where intern receives training within an organization. Internships (sometimes called apprenticeships) can either be mandatory or elective depending on the program and may be paid or unpaid.

What are the rules for hiring interns in Canada in 2024?

While interns are not always considered employees, if you operate in a federally regulated industry, you are required to uphold the Code.

Hours of work for interns

The hours of work for student interns are the same as employees and cannot exceed the standard set by your provincial employment legislation. Employers may modify an intern’s work schedule to operate outside of the usual standard hours, however, schedules should not exceed an average forty hours per week over a two-week period.

Rest periods and breaks for interns

There are several breaks and rest periods that must be granted according to the Code.

  • Interns are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid break every five consecutive hours of work. This break cannot be split and must be granted by employers
  • Unpaid medical break requests supported by a medical certificate must be granted. Medical certificates should indicate the required frequency and duration of the breaks
  • Employers must allow mothers who need to nurse their babies or express milk, the necessary unpaid breaks during their workday
  • Full rest periods of at least 8 hours between shifts must be adhered to

Protected leaves of absence for interns

There are some job-protected unpaid leaves that interns are entitled to once proper documentation is received.

Interns are entitled to the following job-protected leaves where applicable:

  • Personal leave
  • Bereavement leave
  • Leave for victims of family violence
  • Medical leave
  • Leave for work-related illness or injury
  • Leave for traditional aboriginal practices

Additionally, provisions must be made for pregnant or nursing mothers who require modification to their activities at work, once they provide a medical certificate. Employers must either agree to the modifications or provide a written explanation why it is not practical for the business. They are also not obligated to provide pay during these leaves. Employees are entitled to leave while they await a response to their request.

Interns are not entitled to maternity-related leaves if:

  • It is not possible to modify their activities
  • A healthcare provider determines they are unable to continue working due to the pregnancy or nursing

Are interns entitled to general or statutory holidays?

Interns are entitled to time off with pay for 10 general holidays per year. These holidays are:

1.      New Year’s Day (January 1)

2.      Good Friday

3.      Victoria Day

4.      Canada Day (July 1)

5.      Labour Day (1st Monday in September)

6.      National Day of Truth and Reconciliation (September 30)

7.      Thanksgiving Day (2nd Monday in October)

8.      Remembrance Day (November 11)

9.      Christmas Day (December 25)

10.  Boxing Day (December 26)

If an intern is required to work on a general holiday, employers may substitute it with another day. Both the employer and the intern must agree to the substitution in writing.

How can employers avoid workplace reprisals with interns?

Workplace reprisals refer to retaliation employers take against employees for carrying out protected activities or enforcing their rights under the Code (including Occupational Health and Safety protections), or under the Canadian Human Rights Act. This includes reporting workplace violations, filing complaints, participating in investigations, or exercising their rights.

If interns exercise any protected right under the Code, employers are not permitted to do any of the following:

  • End the internship
  • Suspend, layoff, or demote the intern
  • Refuse promotion or training opportunities
  • Take any disciplinary actions
  • Apply financial or other penalties

Workplace reprisals, even with interns, can lead to very costly claims and additional repercussions from Canada Industrial Relations Board. Interns that have been victims of reprisal or retaliation from their employer for enforcing their rights under the Canadian Human Rights Act can file a reprisal complaint to the Human Rights Officer in the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Need help understanding the rules around hiring interns?

Having proper HR documentation and policies is key to staying compliant with the Canada Labour Code. If you are hiring interns this summer, we can help. We offer expert HR advice, HR policy support, and a smart HR software to help you grow your business company and meet your goals. Our certified advisors can also assist you with any health & safety and employee issues that may arise. Call 1(833) 247-3652 today to learn more about how our services can benefit your business. 

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