Unpaid work in Australia

Your WIL experience may either be paid or unpaid.

While Australia has rules and regulations in place to ensure workers are fairly compensated for their work, unpaid work may be lawful if the purpose of the work is to:

  • Get training and skills and/or work experience as part of your course, such as WIL
  • Test a job applicant has the skills required for the job
  • Volunteer in a not-for-profit or charity organisation

This video helps to explain when unpaid work may be acceptable.

A vocational placement is considered to be an opportunity for you to apply knowledge learned in your course and to gain professional experience in a workplace.

Under the Fair Work Act, to be considered an unpaid vocational placement your arrangements must meet the following criteria:

  • The vocational placement must be a requirement of your course and be approved by your university. This is regardless of whether you source the opportunity or your university organises it for you.
  • There can’t be a contract between you and the employer, which entitles you to receive money for the work performed. This would mean you’re an employee and not there for a vocational placement.
  • The vocational placement must be approved by your university as a requirement of your course or subject.

You may undertake a WIL experience for which you may be paid. In this case, this experience will be subject to the Fair Work laws including the National Employment Standards and the minimum wage laws.

Work experience and WIL activities, including internships and work placements which are unpaid, and don’t meet the criteria for a vocational placement under the Fair Work Act may be unlawful.

If you suspect you have been asked to undertake unpaid work experience that does not meet all of the criteria for a vocational placement, inform your WIL Advisor. You can learn more about the requirements of unpaid work arrangements at the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Unpaid Work webpage.

Understanding Australian Workplace Cultures: Legislative and regulatory frameworks

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