Unpaid work experience - when is it okay?


A responsible employer will give you proper training on handling equipment and keeping safe on the work site.

Unpaid work experience is okay:

When it’s legal...

Unpaid work experience can include vocational placements, volunteering for a charitable organisation and work trials.

With some of these arrangements it’s okay not to be paid for doing the work. With other arrangements, you are classed as an employee and should be paid.

When trying to work out whether a work experience arrangement forms an employment relationship, consider the following questions:

  • Are you undertaking a vocational placement?
  • Are you involved in a genuine volunteering arrangement?
  • Are you doing productive work?
  • Is the main benefit of the work arrangement to you?
  • Are you receiving a meaningful learning experience?
  • How long is the work arrangement for?
  • Are you required to attend the workplace or perform productive activities? 

When it’s safe...

Safe working conditions are really important when you doing work experience. A responsible employer will give you training on handling equipment and how to keep safe on site.

Consider insurance

Sometimes accidents happen. When they do it’s always reassuring to know you can access insurance if you need medical treatment.

If you do work experience as part of your studies then your educational institution may cover your insurance. Always check with your educational institution. If they don’t provide coverage, talk to the employer about insurance. Be prepared that you may also need to arrange insurance yourself.

When it gives you new skills and abilities...

Work experience can give you a chance to work with workplace coaches and mentors. They will help you apply your skills and abilities in the workplace. Doing work experience as part of your studies helps you understand the daily tasks of that role.

Unpaid work experience is a good way to develop and demonstrate skills like reliability and communication. It also makes you more competitive for jobs. 

Need more information?

This video from the Fair Work Ombudsman has information on When it is and is not okay to complete unpaid work.

These tools can help you: