6 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Internship Law

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 5 November 2022 | Published 27 July 2021

Updated 5 November 2022

Published 27 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An internship can be a good way to learn important industry skills and get valuable work experience. Many people get internships while they're on holiday break from university, so they have connections and experience on their resume when they graduate. If you choose to take part in an internship, it's important to know what employment laws protect your rights. In this article, we discuss what an internship is, what internship law is, frequently asked questions about internship laws and four steps you can follow when getting an internship.

Related: What is the Importance of an Internship?

What is an internship?

An internship is a temporary position that allows students or recent graduates to gain experience working in the industry. During an internship, people can learn about the day-to-day experiences of professionals on a personal level, which isn't always possible in a classroom. They can learn about office etiquette, different office procedures and software that are commonly used.

Internships can last anywhere from several months to a year and are most common during school breaks, like semester breaks. They can be useful for students who are looking to learn more about an industry before they commit to pursuing a career in it full-time. By taking an internship, they can gain a deep understanding of the type of work required and decide whether they want to follow that career path.

Read more: What Is an Internship? (With Benefits and Responsibilities)

What is internship law?

Internship law covers the legal regulations that determine what an intern is and what they can do at a company. Some interns are eligible for protection under the Employment Act. However, the Employment Act does not protect students who take part in internships as part of their school requirements because it does not consider them to be employees. Otherwise, Singapore has laws under the Employment Act that determine how much an intern can work, what their wages are and what benefits they deserve.

Related: How to Write Your Internship in Your Resume (Plus Tips)

Frequently asked questions about internships

Below we answer common questions about internships and the legal system:

Are unpaid interns legal?

Singapore does not have minimum salary requirements, so it's acceptable to have an unpaid intern contracted at a company. These internships are less popular than paid internships, so some companies may provide monthly stipends to offset the price of living and travel expenses to increase the competitiveness of their internships.

However, if a company has applied for government grants to support their internship programme, they may also incur payment requirements to be eligible. The programme that offers the grant may require minimum allowances for interns regardless of whether they receive university credit.

Read more: Do Interns Get Paid? (Plus Salary, Duties and Benefits)

Do interns get Central Provident Fund contributions?

Interns are generally eligible for CPF contributions, which are contributions to a mandatory savings fund paid directly by their employer. Employers typically make these contributions on behalf of Singaporean citizens and permanent residents. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Students who have not earned A-levels and work during the school holiday

  • University students who are taking part in approved internships that agree not to receive CPF contributions

  • Overseas students who take up internships of up to six months in Singapore

Can interns take leave?

Interns protected under the Employment Act can receive paid annual leave if they have worked for at least three months. They're eligible for paid leave based on how many months they have worked at the company. The Employment Act also entitles interns to take sick leave. The severity of their illness and how long they've had the internship determine the number of sick days an intern can take. For example, an intern who has worked for three months and doesn't require hospitalisation can take up to five sick days. However, if hospitalisation is necessary, they get 15 days.

Do interns receive Key Employment Terms?

Interns receive KETs from their employers, whether employers deliver them in person or digitally. A company has 14 days to issue these terms to any interns employed for over 14 days. Here are some items that employers can include in the KET:

  • Name of employer and employee

  • Job title and main duties

  • Start date and duration of the internship

  • Daily working hours and rest days

  • Salary period and basic salary

  • Overtime rates

  • Medical benefits

  • Probation period, if applicable

  • Office location

These terms help establish for the intern what the expectations for their performance are and what they can expect from their employer.

Read more: What Is an Employment Contract?

What work hours and rest days do interns get?

Interns can't work over six consecutive hours without taking a break, and they generally can't work over eight hours in one day or over 44 hours in one week. If the company allows the intern to work more hours than this, the intern receives overtime payment, according to the company's established rate. At least one day every week is a designated rest day. This day is usually Sunday, but it could be any day the employer chooses. For interns on a shift schedule, the rest day qualifies as any consecutive 30 hours without work.

Related: 8 Benefits of an Internship (With Tips to Help You Excel)

Are interns considered employees?

The Employment Act does not differentiate between interns and employees, except for interns who receive school credit. The law considers many interns to be employees. However, interns typically have different contractual agreements that differentiate between the two positions. Here's a list of differences between interns and employees:

  • Work periods: employees don't have the same restrictions on how long they can work at a company. Internships are temporary by definition, and they can't exceed 12 months of continuous work.

  • Qualifications: the qualifications for an intern are usually less strenuous than for an employee. For example, an intern may prove that they have good grades or provide references, but they rarely require work experience because they are for students and entry-level candidates.

  • Payment: employees must receive payment, and their skill set and experience typically decide their salaries. An intern can receive payment or a stipend, but it's unnecessary, and usually set at a standard rate for all interns regardless of skill level.

Related: Internships vs. Apprenticeships: The Main Differences

How to get an internship

You can follow these steps when trying to get an internship, whether it's for school credit or a paid internship:

1. Research companies

Start by researching companies that interest you in fields you want to pursue professionally. Think about what you like to study to decide what type of work you would like to do during your internship. For example, if you excel in your math and accounting classes, consider interning for banks. Look for companies that have established internship programmes to help ease the application process. However, if a company doesn't have one, you can reach out to them and volunteer to intern. They may still hire an intern, even if they haven't established an internship programme.

Read more: How To Get an Internship in 15 Steps

2. Write a CV and cover letter

Next, write a CV and cover letter that showcase your skills and the education you have. Include any work experience you have, even if it's unrelated, to show that you can handle contractual obligations associated with employment. Be sure to include skills you have learned during school to showcase that you have an existing interest in the field, and can be an asset to the company, even as you learn from them.

Related: Is a Cover Letter Necessary? (17 Questions and Answers)

3. Ask for a letter of recommendation

Ask someone you have worked closely with in the past and who you trust to speak highly of you to write a letter of recommendation. A letter of recommendation is a statement provided by a professional or professor who can vouch for you as a candidate for the internship. The letter typically includes skills you have and positive examples of your work ethic and dedication. You can assist the person you ask in writing a strong letter by providing them with the job description, your resume and plenty of notice.

Read more: How To Ask Someone To Be Your Referee: Email Examples

4. Prepare for an interview

If a company is considering you for an internship, the company you applied to may ask for an interview before offering the internship to you. Prepare for the interview so that you're ready to provide compelling answers that recommend your candidacy. To prepare, you can look up common interview questions based on the industry you want to intern for. You can also research the company to find out more about what kind of business they do and think of questions that you may want to ask an interviewer. You can also practise answering questions to develop strong answers before your interview.

Related: Common Law Interview Questions and Sample Answers

This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out local resources for the latest on this topic.

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