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Unpaid interns now entitled to workers' compensation

From 1 July 2020, unpaid interns will be considered 'workers' under the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 and entitled to compensation for work-related injuries.

This means unpaid interns must be acknowledged as part of your wages declaration when renewing your accident insurance policy.Inclusion of unpaid interns in the workers' compensation scheme was recommended by the 2018 independent five-year review of Queensland's workers' compensation scheme.

An 'intern' is defined as a person who is performing work for a business or undertaking without payment of wages to gain practical experience, or to seek to obtain a qualification—and would be a worker if the work they performed was for the payment of wages.

For the coming financial year, every employer who uses unpaid interns must declare them in their 2020–21 policy renewal.

During 2020–21, upfront premiums will not be charged for employers engaging unpaid interns. However, any claims costs such as wages and medical expenses will be taken into account as claims experience when calculating premiums.

WorkCover Queensland has guidance on the changes, which answers the following questions:

  • Who will not be considered an unpaid intern under the new provisions?
  • Why should unpaid interns have access to workers' compensation?
  • What if there is uncertainty about an intern's employment status or wages dispute?
  • How will the unpaid intern amendments affect workers' compensation premiums?
  • When will the unpaid intern compensation entitlements amendment come into effect?

Further information

More information is available at worksafe.qld.gov.au