AUTHOR’S NAME – Nidhi Mishra, LL.B, Second Year.
INSTITUTION NAME – Gopaldas Jhamatmal Advani Law College, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
In India, there are no laws that define the word intern or have legislation related to Internships. Over time there were many conflicts regarding compliance with the statutory norms for interns in India. Interns are students who are still pursuing their degrees but want to gain practical knowledge and learn new skills. Interns are hired in temporary positions in place of graduates or post-graduates to help them learn and get trained for white-collar jobs or professional careers. They are expected to work for free i.e. working without receiving any monthly stipend for the same.[i] Having a considerable number of interns and learners of new skills, the harsh reality is that we do not have any legislation to support and safeguard the rights of the interns. Labor Laws generally look into only the physical work done for the monthly stipend, they cover only Industrial relations, safety in the place of employment, and look into employment standards (e.g. holidays, wages, etc.).
Laws determining some basic factors:
- Firstly, if an establishment has more than nineteen employees needs to abide by the Provident fund rules and regulations
- Secondly, if an organization has ten or more employees and one or more employees receive wages of INR 21,000 per month, then the organization has to abide by the ESI rules and regulations.[ii]
- Any person working within a company, whether temporary, under probation, or permanent, under a contract obligation or not is going to be categorized as an employee.[iii]
After completing a degree, a professional career does not come to an end rather it requires some practical learning which comes through doing internships at a required place and also according to the area of interest. Having several internships in the CV from reputed companies acts like an additional scoop of ice cream on regular ice cream. In India when it comes to income distribution it is debatable as there is no stipend provided to the interns during their internship. So it becomes important for the interns to secure paid internship to cater to their needs, but the stipend that the interns get in return does not even fulfills the charges for a cup of tea. Interns are not able to recover their traveling expenses through their stipends.
No Act covers any intern; though there is no nexus to the Apprenticeship Act, it includes students of engineering, professional training, and registered medical practitioners.[iv]
Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act 1946:
According to Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act 1946, defines the conditions of the process of recruitment, discharge of duties by workmen and employer, disciplinary action against employees, fixed holidays as per industrial norms, types of leaves allotted to the employees i.e. casual leave, sick leave, etc. applicable to every industrial establishment where there is a working strength of 100 or more workmen being employed or were employed on any day during the previous twelve months this is also applicable to an apprentice, but the same is not available to an intern.[v] The Minimum Wages Act 1948 have no mention of intern because of which interns are not receiving the minimum pay from employers for the labor they are doing for the organization. Having no legislation leads to no fixed working hours. As per The Factories Act of 1948, an employee has to work 9 hours per day and 48 hours in a week whereas The Apprenticeship Act of 1961 has fixed working hours of not more than 42 hours in a week.[vi]
As the word intern is not defined under any of the labor laws, nor the trainee or an apprentice as a word is defined under respective laws but that does not mean that they are open to exploitation. [vii]In the acceptance letter for the internship, it mentions that there is no relationship between the Organization and the Intern. The start-up companies established in the metro cities which are not registered under any statute, hire interns on a monthly and quarterly basis and provide a certificate & and stipend only after its completion which is around 2500-3000 which is not enough to meet the basic requirement.
Changes Required in the Statutes:
It is high time that we formulate basic guidelines to set criteria for the interns. In a scenario where the intern is classified as an employee, the employer under the obligation of labor laws will be bound to pay the monthly stipend; and the statute will impose various restrictions on the employment. There should be policies to determine the rights and duties of the interns to protect them from further exploitation.
There need to be some changes in the Employment Act by amending the Act and it shall cover every employee who is working in companies and is bound by a contract including interns. This will prepare a proper legal framework for the employees to get the benefits from the employers and also to keep a check on the employers. Whereas specific guidelines should be framed for educational institutions regarding the internship program, guidance, and working environment.
In Today’s time, interns are in fear of raising their voices against these employers because interns are in fear of getting their careers spoiled by the employers. Sending mail by HR and their other recruited interns results in a negative impact on mental health and an adverse impact on the academics of students an Act will protect them.[viii]
As per the Ministry of Labor and Employment in the year 2014, a notification was passed and it specified the minimum stipend to be paid to an apprentice. And comparatively, the concept of apprenticeship and internship is more similar in meaning the only thing that differs is the department and the work. , the Apprentice Act, of 1961 has made crystal clear that legal interns cannot be equated as an apprentice under the ambit of the Act rendering them unprotected and unrecognized in the legal society.[ix]
Problems faced by the Interns:
The problem faced by interns is that employers want the intern to be experienced in well advanced. Today there is no difference between an internship and a job application. If we go by the literal meaning internship is the place where a student learns the skills to explore more opportunities in the future. But the irony is that the recruiters want experienced people to work as an intern and the worst part is that after working as an intern and fulfilling the duties of full-timers and not protected the same under any legislation
To have a strong foundation of youth working for the country it is high time that we should formulate laws for youth that learning new skills will bring opportunities to excel in their careers. Having laws for the trade apprentice department but not having the same for professional courses to protect their rights and at the same time provide some duties so that the students learn professional skills. Also, there should be some fixed working hours to be decided by the government so that the interns are protected from exploitation. Hence need of the hour is an amendment in the labor law that describes the term intern and internship and also have some legislation for their betterment.
[i] Mrighankhi Chakraborty, APPLICABILITIES OF LABOUR LAWS TO TRAINEES IN INDIA,(Vidhikarya), (Aug. 27, 2023, 9:29 AM), < APPLICABILITIES OF LABOUR LAWS TO TRAINEES IN INDIA (vidhikarya.com)
[ii] India.gov.in, n https://www.india.gov.in/spotlight/employees-state-insurance-scheme#tab=tab-1 > (last visited Aug. 21, 2023).
[iv] Soni Jha , Need of Internship Act: An Amendment to Labor Laws,(Bn’W) , (Aug. 27, 2023, 9:29 AM), < Need of Internship Act: An Amendment to Labor Laws – Black n’ White Journal (bnwjournal.com)
[v] Ministry of Labour & Employment, Chief Labour Commissioner < https://clc.gov.in/clc/acts-rules/industrial-employment-standing-orders-act-1946#:~:text=This%20Act%20is%20to%20require,certifying%20Authority%20for%20its%20Certification., (last visited Aug. 21, 2023).
[vi] Soni Jha , Need of Internship Act: An Amendment to Labor Laws,(Bn’W), (Aug. 27, 2023, 9:29 AM), < Need of Internship Act: An Amendment to Labor Laws – Black n’ White Journal (bnwjournal.com)
[ix] Zianmulla , The Menace Of No Intern Protection Laws And Policy In India ,( Social talks ), (Aug. 27, 2023, 9:29 AM), <TheSocialTalks – The Menace Of No Intern Protection Laws And Policy In India.