Interns in private and public service should get the same treatment at work

Some organisations may require all interns to work for a minimum of at least six months. [iStockphoto]

The biggest nightmare for university students is looking for internships during and after their course period. For the ones who end up snatching the few competitive slots available, the question of monetary compensation troubles them.

University regulations require undergraduate students to undergo a three-month internship at a recognised organisation before one is deemed eligible for graduation.

During the period, one is expected to undergo an assessment of the theory and practical aspects he/she was taught in class.

Some universities further require the same student to pay full fees for the same period as they consider such a student to still be in session, a move that has been questioned by many.

But the main question is, should interns be paid?

A quick survey shows that paid interns earn a salary ranging from Sh11,000 to Sh40,000 depending on the organisation.

Some argue that the salary is not adequate as it doesn’t equate to the amount of work done. Thus, bringing up the question, how much compensation/allowance are interns entitled to?

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has set up guidelines on internships in the public service.

The PSC terms internship as non-remunerative, which means that the work done is solely for experience gain and is non-profitable. However, according to the PSC, an intern is entitled to a monthly stipend and subsistence allowance when out of station.

Interns in the private sector do not enjoy the same rights as those in the public service. Their work schedules and guidelines are determined by the individual organisation they work for.

Some organisations may require all interns to work for a minimum of at least six months for them to be considered employees after which they may be entitled to some form of monetary compensation.

This means that the said persons will have to take care of their own expenses such as transport and food costs during the work period. Should this be the case?

The Public Service Internship Bill of 2021, sponsored by Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda, offers legal framework for the regulation of internship programmes within the public service.

The Bill entitles interns to benefits such as medical insurance, maternity/paternity leave and subsistence allowance determined by the Cabinet Secretary from time to time. It stresses the importance of provision of stipends to interns and terms the act necessary.

All in all, as we await the enactment of the said Bill, one may ask, should the bill also be extended to cover the private sector?

Letter from Cy Muganda, Nairobi