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What interns are entitled to, under the law

  • TODAY (08 June 2010) : What interns are entitled to, under the law
  • TODAY (26 May 2010) : Are Interns being taken advantage of? 
  • TODAY (27 May 2010) : Employers shouldn’t exploit ‘cheap’ labour

What interns are entitled to, under the law
- TODAY, 08 June 2010

We thank Mr. Melvin Toh and Ms. Devi Maradan for their letters, (26 May,” Are Interns being taken advantage of?”) and (27 May, “Employers shouldn’t exploit ‘cheap’ labour”).  

2.   The Employment Act covers every employee who is engaged under a contract of service, this includes interns. An employer should accord statutory benefits prescribed under the law to an intern if he is performing work and has work arrangements similar to that of a regular employee in the organisation.

3.   Under the Employment Act, an employee should not be required to work for more than 8 hours in one day or more than 44 hours in a week. However, he may be required to work overtime if he consents to do so, subject to the limit of 12 hours per day and totalling 72 hours per month. Under the Act, the employer must pay the employee for the extra hours of work or for working on his rest days or public holidays. The rate for overtime work should be no less than one and a half times his hourly basic rate of pay.  An employer must grant the employee one rest day (which is not paid) in a week, which may be on a Sunday or any other day.

4.   Prospective employers through education institutions should inform students clearly of their working arrangements such as their job scope, working hours, remuneration and benefits. Interns who encounter employment issues should approach their employers or their education institutions for clarification to avoid misunderstanding. Alternatively, they may approach the Ministry of Manpower for advice and assistance.  More information on employment provisions in the law can be found at our website

Are Interns being taken advantage of? 
- TODAY, 26 May 2010

I AM writing this letter to clarify the rights of interns and apprentices and hope that my doubts can be clarified by the relevant authorities.

I am doing my internship in a restaurant at a five-star hotel.

Having reviewed the internship agreement presented to me by my employer, I realised that it did not include essential clauses such as the hours of work and job scope.
All it mentioned, under the heading "duties and responsibilities", was that "I shall report directly to the department manager or such other person who may be assigned by the management."

My schedule includes overtime which I did not consent to, and there are even days when I have to work for more than 12 hours.

Nor was I informed of when my rest days would be - they do not fall on a Sunday.
This seems to contradict Section 38 of the Employment Act, which spells out the hours an employee earning less than $2,000 a month can be made to work.

This issue does not affect just me but also other interns in the service industry.
I know many are unaware of their employment rights and accede to overtime work for fear of being sacked or graded badly for their internship.

I hope that the relevant Government authorities will clarify my doubts so that other interns and apprentices would be more aware of their rights, and not be subjected to unfair working conditions.

Employers shouldn't exploit 'cheap' labour
- TODAY, 27 May 2010

I SHARE Melvin Toh's sentiments on how interns are treated by the hotel industry. While we appreciate the fact that being in the service industry entails a certain level of commitment, it often feels that many firms take advantage of "cheap" interns.
My daughter is doing her attachment now at a restaurant in a five-star hotel. The management only plans her shift schedule on a weekly basis, not monthly, and because of that we are unable to plan any family event in advance.

She works six days a week, and she often gets a morning shift the day after she has completed an afternoon shift - which means she gets a mere four hours' sleep. Some interns end up sleeping in their locker rooms.

She has even been forced to do two shifts in a day, but the hotel is careful not to breach the labour law by giving her a break of three hours between the shifts. The interns do not have a say on their shift patterns, their days off or overtime, and are afraid to even raise this with their managers for fear of being graded badly.

Such treatment kills a student's passion for the industry. It's probably also among the reasons why we encounter bad service at top-end hotels and restaurants.
It's time the Manpower Ministry and the relevant hotel or food and beverage associations look into this matter.