Volunteering and Training

Volunteer work, on-the-job experience, and training can be great ways to develop skills and build your resume.  But it is important to understand the employment rules for wages and other standards in these situations.

Generally volunteering is considered to be time that is donated to a cause or organization with no expectation of payment.  Under Manitoba’s employment standards laws, volunteering can be unpaid as long as the work being done is for a charitable or political organization.   

The term internship is commonly used to describe on-the-job work experiences.  These placements and other types of unpaid training may be allowed if the experience is for a limited time and is approved by the provincial or federal government or a school board.  A co-op placement required by a college program for graduation is one example of an internship that may be allowed. 

Most other training that is mandatory, required by your employer to maintain your employment, or is job specific must be paid.  For instance, training should be paid if you are hired at a fast food restaurant that requires scheduled training shifts to be completed.   

Volunteer and other unpaid work placements other than described above are covered by the Employment Standards Code and should provide:

Minimum wage



General holidays

Termination notice

Protected leaves

If a claim or tip is submitted, Employment Standards will determine if wages are owed based on the details specific to the situation. The following investigations were completed by Employment Standards on the issue of unpaid volunteering and internships:

A Winnipeg based event planner was hiring unpaid interns to assist with planning events.  After review, Employment Standards found that the unpaid experience was not approved by provincial or federal government or school board and required the business to pay its interns for the time they were employed.   The employer paid all owed wages and the claims were closed.

A tip was generated from an ad looking for unpaid interns for an event planning company.  An Employment Standards officer reviewed the situation finding that the company was hiring unpaid interns to organize events.   This review resulted in the employer being educated about their requirement to pay employees for work and was issued a legal Notice to Comply, which will allow an administrative penalty to be issued if this occurs again.

A job ad posted by a Winnipeg fashion designer for an unpaid intern position as an assistant prompted a review.   An Employment Standards officer called the owner to inquire if the position had been filled and was advised it was vacant.   The Employment Standards officer took the opportunity to educate the employer about the requirement to pay workers who are not part of an approved program.  This resulted in the employer removing the ad.

If you would like more information regarding internships or volunteering please call Employment Standards’ general inquiry line at 1-204-945-3352 or 1-800-821-4307.