By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday pushed for the passage of a measure that would put a stop to the exploitation of job interns by employers and companies they have trusted to train them.
Hontiveros was referring to Senate Bill No. 994, the Interns’ Rights and Welfare Bill which she filed.
“Internship is for students and young people to learn more about the workplace and to deepen their craft,” Hontiveros said.
“Internship is not an excuse for employers to take advantage of cheap or free labor,” she stressed.
Hontiveros noted that due to the absence of an employer-employee relationship, many interns are subjected to cases of exploitation and lack of professional growth.
The measure seeks to lay down the responsibilities of host training establishments or HTEs to their interns, with the end view of establishing a proper and relevant learning experience for them.
“Dapat ang internship, may professional growth talaga. Hindi yung pinagtitimpla ka lang ng kape o nakatunganga buong araw (Internship should be avenues for professional growth. You shouldn’t just make coffee or not doing anything the whole day)”, the senator said.
She said the bill will require any employer who chooses to host interns to come up with a contract and program that details the professional training of interns.
Hontiveros also said the bill seeks to strengthen schools’ vetting process for HTEs as schools have a responsibility to accredit reputable HTEs for their students and to ensure that students do not undergo internship in companies with dubious internship programs.
“Hindi pwedeng ipag-intern mo yung mga estudyante sa mga kumpanyang may questionable labor practices na pwedeng maglagay sa kanila sa alanganin (Schools should not allow students to enter companies that have questionable labor practices and where they could be taken advantage of),” she stressed.
The measure also puts a cap on internship hours. For the government sector, internship should not exceed 300 hours, nor last for more than six (6) months. For industry-based internships that are more technical in nature like those in the engineering or health-allied fields, internship hours are capped at 660 hours per semester, which is equivalent to 15 units per term.
The bill also protects all interns from any form of workplace abuse and harassment.
In addition, Senate Bill No. 994 seeks to provide basic benefits and remuneration 75% of the prevailing minimum wage in the region for private companies and 75% of Step 1 Salary Grade 1 for interns in the public sector.
It also seeks to appropriate funds for government agencies to host interns in order to promote public and civil service among young people; and seeks the establishment of a grievance mechanism to address any violation of basic interns’ rights.
According to Hontiveros, there are already many good companies taking in interns and really contributing to interns’ development as professionals.
“These model companies implement a good internship program, secure that they have a good working environment and helpful mentors, and sometimes even absorb them as regular employees afterwards,” she detailed.
She said preparing the country’s young people for the workforce includes a viable internship program that centers on their professional growth.
“Our country’s policy on interns reflects how we value humane and decent work. It is time to put a stop to internship horror stories,” she said.
“It is time to stop the abuse and exploitation of interns as part of our education and labor policies,” she emphasized.