Saturday 1 June 2013

Interns are protected under the Employment Act

We refer to the letter by Mr Adrian Tan, “Govt should have measures to protect interns” (May 27), in which he stated inaccurately that interns are not covered under the Employment Act.

The Employment Act covers every employee who is engaged under a contract of service, including interns. This means an employer is obliged to accord statutory benefits prescribed under the Act to an intern, as long as the intern performs work and has work arrangements similar to that of a regular employee in the organisation.

For example, interns who enter into a contract of service should not be required to work for more than eight hours in one day or more than 44 hours in a week. However, he may be required to work overtime if he consents to do so, subject to the limit of 12 working hours per day. Total overtime hours should also not exceed 72 hours per month.

The employer must pay the intern for the extra hours of work or for working on his rest days or public holidays. The rate for overtime work should be no less than one-and-a-half times his hourly basic rate of pay. The employer must grant the intern one rest day (which is not paid) in a week, which may be on a Sunday or any other day.

On the part of education institutions, they evaluate and select suitable companies for internship programmes and match students to relevant programmes. The education institutions also work with employers to brief students on the work environment, and working arrangements including whom they could approach to provide feedback or seek guidance. Student interns should be clear about their working arrangements before accepting and starting the internship. Education institutions should make a final assessment of the student’s internship performance, taking into account the feedback from both the student and the employer.

Both the education institution and employer are expected to provide regular feedback to students throughout the internship. Students can also provide their feedback about the internship to their education institutions, so that the institutions and employers can continually think of ways to improve the internship experience.

Interns who encounter employment issues should approach their employers or their education institutions. They can also approach the Ministry of Manpower for advice and assistance, via email at or at the MOM hotline at 6438 5122. More information on employment provisions can be found online at

Farah Abdul Rahim
Director, Corporate Communications, Ministry of Manpower
TODAY, 31 May 2013

Govt should have measures to protect interns

Internship programmes for tertiary students have perhaps evolved from the traditional apprenticeship, when trainees had no skills and hoped to learn one. Nowadays, interns are skilled, as they are mostly in the final year of their tertiary education.

Internships are for students to gain industry experience and to contribute to the organisation to which they are attached. A high proportion of course credits are allocated to the internship, emphasising its importance.

Any bad performance may not only affect one’s grades, but may also delay graduation. As such, interns typically have to endure if they receive unfair treatment.

Organisations, on the other hand, can dismiss interns any time they deem fit, or deduct their allowances even if the intern was on sick leave. Interns are not covered by the Employment Act. Interns typically seek help from their lecturers and are often advised to endure.

The Government should introduce measures to protect interns from unfair workplace treatments. Legislation may deter some companies from offering internship opportunities to students, but not companies who are sincere in doing so.

As for those who manage interns, they should remember that they were once a student.

Adrian Tan
TODAY, 27 May 2013


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