With the economy still sputtering along, internships remain a popular way for small tech firms to train and recruit new employees and for students and others to gain valuable workplace experience that increases their ability to find full-time employment down the road.
If your technology business employs interns, however, it’s important that you recognize and manage the specific risks associated with internship positions to keep your business thriving.
Your intern risk-management strategy should start by considering the following…
- Workers’ compensation coverage. Your interns may or may not be covered by your existing Workers’ Compensation Insurance policy, depending on where in the country you live. If your workers’ comp policy does not cover interns, check with your insurance agent to see whether your General Liability Insurance policy will cover any claims they might make about on-the-job illnesses or injuries.
- Non-insurance risk management options. If your insurance policies don’t cover damages related to interns, consider entering into hold-harmless agreements. These agreements typically state that, even if an employer is responsible for an intern’s illness or injury, it will not cover any associated expenses. It’s important to note, though, that these agreements must meet fairly stringent guidelines to pass muster in court, so be sure to verify the legal validity of your agreements with an attorney.
- Protection of sensitive data. Giving interns access to important passwords or trade secrets may be essential to their work. But if they share that information with people outside your workplace, you run the risk of losing a competitive edge and even exposing your equipment and systems to unwanted viruses. Minimize your risk by limiting intern access to company information to non-mobile devices and clearly communicating privacy expectations.
- Prevention of data breaches. Even the best-intentioned interns (and employees!) can cause a data breach. In fact, employee error causes about 39 percent of all data breaches. Keep your customers’ data as safe as possible by ensuring that all interns receive training in privacy best practices. Whether or not you bring interns into your mix, you can invest in Cyber Liability Insurance to help mitigate your losses from any data breaches that do occur.
- Federal laws and regulations guiding internship pay. The Department of Labor outlines specific guidelines that must apply in internship situations. Unless your intern structure meets all six, you must offer wages. In recent years, interns whose bosses didn’t follow these rules have brought expensive lawsuits, so be sure to brush up on the definition of an intern and, if your newest addition doesn’t meet that definition, be prepared to add him or her to payroll.
Writtten by Brenna Lemieux - check her out at Google+ or Twitter