Massachusetts interns working

Many businesses hire interns during the summer. It helps workers gain valuable experience, and your business benefits from fresh summer workers eager to learn. This mentoring process requires commitment, resources, and attention to detail, but it can have a very positive impact on your business.

However, hiring interns comes with risks. You must comply with state and federal laws otherwise you could face fines, citations, and lawsuits. Federal law stipulates internship positions must only involve educational tasks that benefit the intern more than the company and the work they do must not displace an employee.

Consider these factors, screen applicants carefully, and protect your business before you hire.

Provide Vital Information

A thorough team orientation should include your company’s policies and procedures so interns have the information they need to do their job properly within your guidelines.

Describe compensation, benefits, and safety procedures in writing so the intern knows what to expect and what to do if they have a problem.

Offer a Structured Program

A structured internship program includes written documentation and guidance so the intern performs meaningful work. Establish objectives and deliverables so they know what’s expected and you can hold them accountable for work quality and progress.

Introduce them to your brand and business model, and describe how their position fits into it and your business strategy. Provide them with the resources they need to get the job done.

Invest in your internship program through one-on-one meetings, goal setting sessions, and even consider networking opportunities to help the best find employment after their internship ends.

Perform regular reviews and offer feedback. After discussing their progress, have them sign their review to confirm they understand the discussion. Don’t forget an exit interview, too. Participant feedback helps you hone your internship program.

A structured program with written documentation not only clarifies duties and responsibilities; it also reduces the chances of misunderstandings, claims, and lawsuits.

Review Insurance Coverage

If your business hires interns, you’ll probably need Employment Practices Liability insurance, especially if you hire unpaid interns. Typically, it offers high liability limits to protect you against the costs associated with lawsuits, as well as coverage for wrongful acts, bodily injury, and property damage.

Generally, paid interns are employees. This means they usually need workers’ compensation and health coverage. Occasionally, full-time paid interns can be classified as exempt seasonal workers. Unpaid interns may need coverage if you directly control their duties and schedule. This varies between states, so discuss your program with your agent. They’ll review your coverage, close any insurance gaps, and update your policy.

Almost all private-sector employers in the United States must, at the very least, pay their interns minimum wage. While the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes a few narrow exceptions, confirm your business qualifies. Otherwise, you will violate the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act and could face serious consequences.

All businesses need good insurance coverage, so a quick call to your agent before you hire inters could avoid future problems.