Fair Work Ombudsman’s Report


‘The nature and prevalence of unpaid work experience, internships and trial periods in Australia. Experience or Exploitation’

A report commissioned by the Fair Work Ombudsman into the nature, prevalence and regulation of unpaid work experience, internships and trial periods in Australia. Research completed in January 2013 by Adelaide Law School Professors, Andrew Stewart and Rosemary Owens. Released in February 2013


Key report findings

The report found that a growing number of businesses are using unpaid work schemes as an alternative to hiring paid staff. The research acknowledges the importance and legitimacy of unpaid work within formal vocational placements. It also found that:

  • employers want clarification about the legitimacy and legality of unpaid work
  • young people and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to being exploited
  • unpaid work is most common in competitive industries with an oversupply of qualified graduates.

Report recommendations and responses

The report makes 6 recommendations that we will work to implement.

  • Better define unpaid work experience.
  • Expand guidance and education activities.
  • Conduct targeted campaigns in key industries.
  • Instigate legal action before relevant courts where appropriate.
  • Improve liaison with relevant government agencies.
  • Initiate comprehensive engagement with key stakeholders representing employers and employees, with an emphasis on vulnerable workers (young people and migrant workers).

Video of presentation to ACEN

Here’s the video of the recent presentation by Professors Andrew Stewart and Rosemary Owens of Adelaide University, authors of ‘The nature and prevalence of unpaid work experience, internships and trial periods in Australia: Experience or Exploitation’. 

IMPORTANT: Use the download button on the Dropbox site to get the full video.
Professors Stewart and Owens have generously made their slides available to ACEN.

Presentation PDF




FWO infographic issues and responses

This graphic summarises the issues around unpaid work arrangements in Australia. Produced by the Fair Work Ombudsman, this graphic summarises the issues and recommendations identified in the report ‘Experience or Exploitation?’ around unpaid work arrangements in Australia and outlines the Fair Work Ombudsman’s responses. FWO-workplace-infographic


UK Code of Practice

The presentation refers to a 2011 UK document ‘Common Best Practice Code for High-Quality Internships’.


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