Unpaid Placements and Internships
Students who perform experiential learning activities (i.e. unpaid work) at a 3rd party business or institution (i.e. a placement host) for academic credit are on an unpaid placement (also known as an internship).
Health and Safety / Physical Safety
If the placement takes place in Ontario, the students are considered workers while on placement and are covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The placement host, as employer, is responsible for ensuring all OHSA requirements are met. Training agencies have a similar duty of care and must take precautions to ensure their students are not placed in unsafe environments.
It is often best to have students complete mandatory training before they begin their placement. Follow these instructions to learn how to register your students for the online Health and Safety Awareness training. Placement hosts must provide any required job specific safety training.
A successful placement also requires the management of a number of non-physical risks. For example:
- ensuring that the experiential learning activities performed by the student meet the academic and transformational goals of the placement and that there is a viable means of assessing the student’s performance during the placement
- ensuring the student does not cause harm to anyone in the placement location or jeopardize their business or reputation in any way
- ensuring the challenges of international travel have been addressed
There are several factors that determine the type of insurance available to students on unpaid placement. It is important that these factors are understood and that the insurance provisions that apply are understood by the placement co-ordinator, the student and the placement host. These arrangements are normally confirmed through the use of a Student Declaration of Understanding and either a Letter to Placement Employer, an Affiliation Agreement (also known as a Placement Agreement) or a contract with the placement employer.
A total of 7 Outcomes have been identified (see decision tree):
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) has a program that funds WSIB coverage for students on unpaid placements as part of a Ministry approved and funded programs and where the placement is with a WSIB-insured host. Details of the program can be found in the MCU Guideline and Q and A documents (note: as of June 7, 2016, this programs applies to both elective and mandatory placements).
The MCU program also funds private insurance coverage for students on unpaid placements as part of a Ministry approved and funded programs and where the placement is a host that is not insured by the WSIB. Details of the program can be found in the MCU Guideline and Q and A documents (note: As of June 7, 2016, this programs applies to both elective and mandatory placements).
Trent will fund private insurance coverage for placements that are not eligible for the MCU program where employers who do not have WSIB insurance.
Unless alternate arrangements are made, students placed with an Ontario host who carries Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) insurance are automatically covered by the WSIB. The host is responsible for costs and other WSIB obligations.
Trent will fund WSIB coverage for students placed with a WSIB employer but who are not eligible for the MCU program. Certain conditions must be met: A risk assessment must be completed and documented, it must be a low-risk placement, and it must be approved by the Dean. As deemed employer Trent assumed responsibility for costs, reporting, and claims management.
Provinces, territories, states or countries may have Workers’ Compensation legislation similar to Ontario’s WSIB insurance. The purchase of private insurance may not be necessary or appropriate in jurisdictions where WCB (Workers’ Compensation Board) or equivalent coverage applies.
Jurisdictional requirements should be reviewed before placing students with hosts outside of Ontario.
Trent University students completing a placement hosted by Trent University are covered by the University's WSIB.
Trent carries Commercial General Liability that covers faculty, staff and students engaged in Trent sanctioned activities, including external placements, for any third party losses that may result from that activity.
A well written and balanced placement agreement not only provides court ready documentation that you have exercised reasonable due diligence, it ensures that all parties understand their rights and responsibilities regarding the placement. Through indemnification, it protects the placement host, and Trent, making potential hosts more likely to accept student placements. For short placements of a single student, the Letter to the Employer and Student Declaration may suffice in lieu of an agreement. For lengthy, multiple year and multiple student placements, a placement agreement is strongly recommended. We recommend that substantive changes to the template and placement agreements provided by an external host be reviewed by the Risk Management Office, and possibly legal counsel, before they are executed.
Trent as Placement Host
The provisions described above can apply to Trent as the Training Agency, the Placement Host, or both. A Pre-Placement H&S Orientation Checklist and a Pre-Placement Due Diligence Checklist should be completed prior to every placement. Trent is insured by the WSIB and placements completed at Trent are automatically covered by this insurance. To reduce University costs and potential liability, MCU funding should be arranged for all eligible Trent-hosted placements. (See the MCU Guide and Q and A for eligibility requirements). A Letter to Placement Employer and Student Declaration of Understanding or a Placement Agreement (or equivalent and normally provided by the training agency) must be completed prior to the placement. Accident reporting procedures (described by the MCU Guide) are normally the responsibility of the Training agency. Risk Management should also be advised of any injury or work-related illness that occurs on Trent property.