Are interns entitled to an employment contract? How many vacation days are you entitled to? And do they have to work for free too? What interns should know.
Interns also have claims. You should know this.
An internship is almost part of starting a career. Many interns hope that this will give them better chances on the job market and will therefore accept almost all conditions. But interns do have rights and should be aware of them.
What is an internship?
Some companies see interns primarily as cheap labor. In order for interns to be able to defend themselves against bad treatment, however, they must know their rights. Which these are is different. "First you have to clarify whether it is a real internship," says Martin Bonelli, consultant for labor law at the Darmstadt Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Internships are often named everything: from a trial day to part-time positions.
No legal rules specifically for internships
"We have the problem in this country that there is no legal regulation specifically for internships," adds Florian Haggenmiller, Federal Youth Secretary of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB). In 2003 the Federal Labor Court defined an internship as a temporary activity in a company to acquire practical knowledge. The content of the internship is decisive, explains Bonelli. Is learning the focus or is it working in the company?
Compulsory internship is regulated by study regulations
This is clearly the case with student internships or compulsory internships during studies. "Rights and obligations in the internship are clearly regulated by the training and study regulations," says Alexander Bredereck, specialist lawyer for labor law in Berlin. There is no legal entitlement to remuneration. Those who voluntarily sit in at a company have significantly more rights: If the internship serves to acquire new knowledge and skills, it falls under the Vocational Training Act, which regulates apprenticeships.
Internship or normal employment
On the other hand, it becomes problematic if the internship is no longer used for training. "With an internship for graduates who have completed their studies, you can quickly find a normal employment relationship in legal terms," explains Bonelli. If the work performance is the focus of the internship, the intern has the same rights as an employee and the right to fair pay. "The wages must then not be more than 30 percent below the usual remuneration, otherwise wages are usury."
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Preliminary talk for interns
"A good internship is characterized by the fact that the intern's wishes are taken seriously," says Jessica Heyser, political advisor for the DGB youth in Berlin. She therefore advises all prospective interns to have a clarifying preliminary talk. Interns are not cheap workers, but should get an insight into the world of work.
Interns do not need a contract
The preliminary talk should therefore not only deal with the interns' wishes, but also with their rights. And ideally, the company and the intern should record this in a written contract. "It is not the case that companies are legally obliged to draw up a contract," says Heyser, who is fighting with the DGB youth for precisely this obligation. But if the prospective intern addresses this openly, a contract shouldn't be a problem either.
What the internship contract should contain
In the internship contract, for example, it must state which learning and training goals there are, how high the remuneration is and what the daily internship time looks like, explains Kerstin Jerchel from the Legal Department of the Verdi Federal Administration.
Working hours for interns
Clear rules must be observed with regard to working hours. “But that's a question of the age of the interns,” says Heyser.
- According to the Federal Ministry of Labor, young people who are no longer required to attend school are generally only allowed to work 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. A young person is considered to be anyone who is at least 15 and not yet 18 years old.
- For under 15-year-olds without compulsory schooling, the limit is 7 hours a day and 35 hours a week.
Night shifts and weekend work for interns?
Here, too, a distinction is made between compulsory internships and voluntary internships. For mandatory internships, interns usually neither have to work night shifts nor work on weekends, says Meier. Something different only applies if, for example, night shifts are expressly part of the job, for example in the fire department or the police. If this is not the case and the boss deploys you at the weekend, for example because of a lack of staff, the guest do not have to comply with this request.
Shift work during the internship is paid extra
In the case of voluntary internships, it depends on what is regulated in the contract. If it says that weekend work and night work are planned and this has been signed, interns can hardly avoid the unusual working hours. However, employers are obliged to pay extra for these shifts. This is not done with the regular internship remuneration.
Vacation entitlements for interns
Different rules apply to vacation entitlement. Compulsory internships that students have to complete are not protected under labor law. There is basically no vacation entitlement there. On the other hand, those who voluntarily complete an internship after completing their studies have the same rights as an employee. The normal rules of the Federal Holiday Act apply here. If you do not take vacation, it must be paid out at the end of the internship. Heyser explains: "Interns are entitled to vacation, and if you are sick you don't have to add the days to the internship."
Vacation entitlement varies depending on the length of the internship
The vacation entitlement varies depending on the length of the internship. Esther Hartwich, training expert at the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Berlin, explains that according to the Federal Holiday Act, interns are entitled to at least 24 days per year, i.e. 2 days per month. "If you work on the weekend, the vacation entitlement is greater," says the DGB youth expert. In addition, the vacation days depend on the age. Under-16s have 30 days of vacation, and under-18s have 25 days of vacation per year. However, if the intern is only in the company for a very short time, then according to the Federal Ministry of Labor, the vacation entitlement can no longer apply.
Remuneration for interns
When it comes to payment, different rules apply depending on the type of internship. There is no payment for the compulsory internship. However, every intern should ask whether it is not possible after all, advises Heyser. Voluntary internships, on the other hand, must be remunerated. "If the intern is involved in work processes and makes an economically usable contribution, then there is a right to appropriate remuneration," says Hartwich.
Eligibility for a minimum wage?
In the case of a voluntary internship, interns aged 18 and over are entitled to the minimum wage in any case. However, this only applies if someone is actually doing work and not just standing by and looking, explains Hans-Georg Meier, specialist lawyer for labor law in Berlin. He advises interns to keep a diary of the tasks they have taken on. If the employer refuses to pay remuneration, they have such evidence to sue them retrospectively. The employer must then in turn deny the information provided by the guest. However, that is not so easy at all. The right to a minimum wage also exists if the internship lasts longer than 3 months.
A qualified internship certificate is not always mandatory
When the internship is over, every intern is entitled to a certificate. In the case of compulsory interns, however, this only means a certificate stating that they were employed as an intern in the company within a certain period of time. In the case of a compulsory internship in accordance with the training or study regulations, the certificate must be at least sufficiently detailed so that interns can demonstrate that they have completed all tasks that are prescribed in the study regulations.
Qualified certificate only for voluntary internships
According to the ministry, however, a qualified certificate with a precise description of the job and assessment is only required for voluntary interns. However, you are only entitled to this if someone has been with the company for at least two months. Before that, you will often not be able to do anything about it if the employer only issues a certificate in which the internship is confirmed.
Request a certificate in good time
Until when interns can request a certificate depends on whether it is a compulsory internship or a voluntary internship, says Meier. If the internship is compulsory in the training regulations or in the curriculum, interns are always entitled to a certificate, regardless of how late they ask for it. In the case of voluntary internships, you should also become active within one year at the latest and request the certificate.
Right of termination for interns
Anyone who does not get through their internship to the end has the right to terminate. The termination is legally bound to deadlines. Sometimes the termination is also regulated in the contract. In practice, however, interns can usually drop out at any time.
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