Interns underpaid after 'training' revealed to be real work

A GROUP of young interns who worked full-time for almost three months without pay, are owed $30,000 after the company paying them was phoenixed, a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation has revealed.

The four undergraduates, the FWO said, paid an advertising agency almost $8000 to do what they believed was a marketing course, running between seven and 13 weeks.

But the interns, the investigation later revealed, had actually worked on real contracts including advertising, marketing, business strategies and graphic and web design, unpaid.

"Our investigation found that the company gained a commercial benefit from the work but the employees received no actual formal training," Ombudsman Natalie James said in a statement.

"Whilst we found the four employees had been underpaid more than $30,000, the company was subsequently placed into voluntary administration, preventing the FWO from commencing legal proceedings.

"However, our concerns about the potential contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) have been referred to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC)."

The investigation was one of several such cases where young undergraduate and work experience students were exploited by questionable businesses.

The FWO in response this week has released new guides to working as an intern or on work experience to help young people navigate their rights and responsibilities.

A host of resources are online at and follow extensive talks between the FWO, business and union groups and the education sector.