Reading time: 3 minutes

If you have been approached by a student who wants to complete a vocational placement at your organisation, it is important to understand what your obligations are. Vocational placements are mostly unpaid, and this article goes through the requirements that need to be met under the Fair Work Act 2009 for unpaid work to be lawful.

What is a vocational placement?

Some students are required to undertake work experience as part of their educational or training course. They have the opportunity to work in a professional setting and are exposed to the situations that arise in the industry.

It is a mutually-beneficial relationship, as the students learn skills to prepare them, and firms can participate in the development of students and get them ready for work.

‘Lawfully unpaid’

It is not unlawful to take someone on for their vocational placement and not pay them. The Fair Work Act allows for vocational placements to be unpaid roles. The reason for this is that the students are not considered employees and so they are not entitled to minimum wage or any other entitlements the Fair Work Act provides.

Many requirements must be satisfied for the vocational placement to be lawfully unpaid. All of these requirements must be met under the Fair Work Act.

The placement

There must be a placement where the student is required to undertake a particular period of work. It may be that the school or institution arranges the placement for the student or the student may contact businesses and initiate their own placement.

Requirement to undertake placement

The educational or training institution must require the student to participate in the placement as part of their training. This could be a compulsory subject or an elective subject, but it must be a required component of the course that they are taking.

Entitlement to pay

One critical factor is that the student should not be entitled to payment. If there is a contract between the student and workplace that entitles the student to a payment in return for the work they perform, it constitutes an employment relationship and is no longer a vocational placement.

Where work placements fall under industrial awards or agreements, these are also not vocational placements.


The student must be studying at an institution that is approved and authorised under the Commonwealth or an Australian state or territory. This could include courses offered at universities, TAFE colleges and schools.

If these four requirements are met, the host business or organisation is not required to pay the student. However, there is no prohibition for the host organisation to provide payment to the student if they choose to do so.


If you are planning to take a student on vocational placement without paying them, make sure the four requirements are met under the Fair Work Act. If you need employment advice on whether or not you are required to pay your staff, call LegalVision on 1300 544 755. Our employment lawyers are ready to assist.


Day in Court: What Happens When Your Business Goes to Court

Thursday 2 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

If your business is going to court, then you need to understand the process. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Manage a Construction Dispute

Thursday 9 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Protect your construction firm from disputes. To understand how, join our free webinar.
Register Now

Startup Financing: Venture Debt 101

Thursday 23 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how venture debt can help take your startup to the next level. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards