Unpaid work

Find out the difference between unpaid work and paid work.

Reasons for unpaid work

Unpaid work can occur in the workforce in different forms including student placement, unpaid job placements, internships, work experience and trials. These arrangements can be entered into for a number of reasons. These include:

  • to give a person experience in a job or industry
  • to provide training and skills or work experience as part of formal programs to assist people to obtain work
  • to test a person’s job skills, or
  • to volunteer time and effort to a not-for-profit organisation.

Not paying a person under some of these arrangements can be lawful. For example:

  • for defined vocational placements, or
  • where a job seeker isn't an employee, but is undertaking a work placement as part of a Commonwealth employment program.

When a person is an employee

Where the person is an employee, they are entitled to pay and conditions under the Fair Work Act.

If a person is an employee, they may need to complete training to make sure they have the right skills and knowledge to perform their job. This can include on-the-job training, online or formal training courses or team training.

If an employee does training as part of their job, they have to be paid for those hours. Time spent in training is time worked.

Example: Payment for training

Joe just started as a sales assistant in a shop. Before his first shift, he had to complete an online course that showed him how to use the cash register and explained all the company policies. This took him 2 hours. When he finished the course he worked 3 hours on the shop floor.

Because the training was compulsory, Joe had to be paid for the 2 hours he spent doing the online training as well as the 3 hours he worked on the shop floor.

Compulsory meetings can count as time worked and need to be paid.

Find out about types of unpaid work arrangements and some of the problems that can occur with:

Tools and resources