5 tips to avoid being exploited when you are an intern

« L'enjeu du stage est d'apprendre ce que l'on n'enseigne pas à l'école : le travail de groupe, le respect des horaires, apprendre à dire 'non' », explique Ophélie Latil, directrice du cabinet de conseil en égalité & inclusion Dames oiseaux.

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Between the desire to do well and self-forgetfulness, the position of trainee is sometimes like a balancing act. And its integration into the teams requires special efforts. Alas, it happens that the internship turns to hell. To avoid these unfortunate experiences, here is a guide for trainees which describes the best practices, tools and safeguards in force.

1. Have an internship agreement in good and due form

This is the prerequisite for any course, and the text to which we refer if it does not go well. In the manner of an employment contract (but it is not one!) the agreement makes it possible to write down all the essential points of the internship: the duration, the missions, the supervision (a tutor in the company , a representative of the school), the gratuity, the advantages, the insurance in the event of an accident, the social protection scheme, the validation conditions… But also the terms of suspension and termination of the course. “If the announced missions are not respected, it is precisely this document that allows you to step up”, explains Stéphanie Devèze-Delaunay, legal expert in the field of internships at the Ministry of Higher Education.

This agreement is tripartite, that is to say signed by the training organization, the host organization and the person concerned. By signing it, the trainee undertakes to respect the rules in place in the company. In general, it is drafted by the school or the university – these are more and more attentive to the internship conditions of their students.

NB: if you start an internship without having signed an agreement, after 48 hours, it will be requalified as a permanent contract by the Labor Courts – like any employment contract.

2. Know your rights

The internship agreement is essential, but it does not contain all the legal texts that concern interns – it would take a lot of pages otherwise!

What are his rights? For a period of more than two months in a row, the intern receives a bonus whose hourly rate, for 2022, cannot be less than 3.90 Pounds per hour of internship, i.e. 600.60 Pounds for 44 days of 7 hours . The internship period cannot exceed six months.

Be careful, you have to get information from the host organization because the collective agreement may be more generous. The trainee benefits from the same provisions as the employees of the company with regard to catering and transport. Since the law of July 28, 2011, the student in training is entitled to the social and cultural activities of the works council under the same conditions as employees. He is also protected in the event of moral or sexual harassment.

3. Not saying “yes” to everything

In other words: do not sell off, accepting anything, any mission. Even for a nice line on the CV. For example: walking the boss' dog, vacuuming or putting away boxes. “Why would companies change their behavior towards interns if they say ‘yes' to everything, and especially to anything? asks Ophélie Latil, director of the equality & inclusion consulting firm Dames Oiseaux. What is important is the work dynamic! Because the challenge of the internship is to learn what is not taught at school: group work, respecting schedules, learning to say ‘Nope' … » She advises avoiding companies where the turnover of trainees is too intense and favoring small companies to have interesting tasks to do.

Recommendations that the jurist Stéphanie Devèze-Delaunay shares, while qualifying a little: “The trainee is also part of a team, if the tutor asks, as far as is reasonable and in good intelligence, for additional small tasks, this is also part of his apprenticeship in life in a company. »

4. Talk about your difficulties

If, despite all these safeguards, nothing works, several remedies exist. Here they are crescendo. First stage: discuss it with your colleagues who can be of good advice with regard to their experience in the company and/or in contact with the tutor.

Second stage (and if you feel comfortable): try to put the subject on the table with your boss, referring to what is written in the signed internship agreement (missions, tasks, internship subject ). Do not hesitate to expose your difficulties. In some establishments, there are mediators who specialize in managing this type of crisis.

Once discussed orally, report everything in writing, being as factual as possible (for example: “I arrived on such a date and I still haven't worked on my internship subject listed in my agreement”) – if a lawsuit were to be launched, this would serve as evidence. And even if, sometimes, it can seem insurmountable.

You must then send this email to both HR (if you are in a large structure), your tutor and your manager in the training organization. “Since 2021, if it is written in an email ‘I'm being bullied, I'm asking for help' and this aid is not provided within two months, the company will be held responsible”, recalls Ophélie Latil.

5. Seek outside help

If all the previous actions are unsuccessful, you can use medical or legal remedies. It is possible to report the abusive conditions of an internship to the Labor Inspectorate. You can also, in large groups, notify occupational medicine, which includes prevention in its field of action. You can also take legal action before the tribunal des Prud'hommes – like any worker.


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