I’m young and inexperienced, I’m not familiar with worker laws or how common things are within the workplace. I just turned 18 this year and for my uni course I need 5 weeks work placement to be completed.

Naturally, I handed in a bunch of resumes and paperwork to multiple places. I handed in a resume and paperwork to my current placement and it took 4 months before they responded saying they would take me.

I jumped on this opportunity because I was afraid I wouldn’t get any other chance (I live in a small town) and none other businesses had responded to my resumes.

I’ve been doing unpaid placement with them for them for a week now, working 5am to 5pm and putting in my all to learn.

However; My general manager avoids to sign offical paperwork agreeing to my university’s placement conditions, terms and insurance. He says “I’ll do it this afternoon” and forgets, when I ask that afternoon he says “I’ll do it tomorrow” and repeat. He barely shows up, and when he is present he is only there for about 1-2 hours.

He never asked for identification or set up a formal meeting when I first applied, so I rarely know him.

He asks questions that are all answers in the vocational placement information booklet and then “loses” the information booklet so I print out another and he just never reads it.

Because he hasn’t agreed to the placement agreement, I can’t complete placement assignments and the hours I completed aren’t counted until he signs it.

He said that he has the certifications required in the placement agreement, but I’m getting worried that he doesn’t and he is just lying to get free work.

I understand that being a manager makes people busy, but I need him to sign this agreement so I can pass my university course, how do I finally get him to agree to it?

  • 57
    You can't make the manager do anything. You need to get in touch with your university. They may actually be able to check if the business has the appropriate certifications, and may have advice on how to proceed. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 3:40
  • 56
    Where in the world are you? Where I live, working 12 hours shifts would be highly illegal exploitation, especially if unpaid. But then, you rarely see 18 year olds enrolled in university already here. Please add a country tag and remove one of the existing ones.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 5:25
  • 5
    What kind of work do you do? It is highly unusual for a university to require real-world work (usually called an internship) when you've just started higher education. This usually comes towards the end of a bachelor's degree. Is this a vocational school?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 18:26
  • 5
    In what country/state is this in? What certification do they need? What kind of company/organization is this? Does this employer have a corporate structure? Do they have an HR? Is it a sole proprietorship? Is it a franchise? What kind of work is this? Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 19:03
  • 1
    @MonkeyZeus At least in Germany, there are courses that require some kind of internship as a prerequsite either before or very early in the programme. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 9:05

5 Answers 5


Contact your university.

If this is part of the course, there should be someone at your university who is in charge of ensuring that the placement is conducted correctly. Contact them and explain what the situation is. They will be able to help and/or advise you.

  • 10
    Also contact Human Resources at the company. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 15:19
  • 48
    @DJClayworth I disagree. Ensuring that students have good workplaces is the University's job. HR represent the company not the student. In this situation you should not contact HR unless the university says so. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 20:31
  • 8
    HR does represent the company but--assuming everyone here is working in good faith--"hey, some of the expectations of your university placement program are not being fulfilled" is directly relevant to HR responsibilities and something they should be eager to fix. There's a risk that the manager would see going to HR as an affront... but IMO that same risk exists getting the university involved. The very important key here is that OP present this situation to HR as "there's a problem, let's work together to fix it" and not "hey, my manager is slacking." Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 15:31
  • 5
    @GrandOpener "some of the expectations of your university placement program are not being fulfilled" sounds like an statement that should come from the University themselves rather than some 18yo student.
    – walen
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 7:20
  • Going to HR is a waste of time. OP doesn't work for the company. Functionally, OP is like a third-party contractor working for the company. There's just no pay.
    – Xavier J
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 19:40

You are being taken advantage of. Write a memo to the manager, detailing exactly what you need and when you need it by, and make it clear that you "cannot" come back until he signs off on the University forms for your work placement requirements.

The only way companies get free labor is if it is given to them. Stop giving it to them. If the manager refuses to sign the paperwork and has previously indicated that he would, talk to a lawyer. He may have broken a number of labor laws.

  • 7
    You have to be very careful in these situations. It's possible that the manager is just very busy and has every intention of signing the documents. Being rude could potentially lead the the employer deciding it's not worth the hassle. Which means the OP may fail their university course. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 15:17
  • 48
    Working 12 hour days for a week for no pay and without any paperwork or (it appears) expectation of actually getting paperwork signed off on may indicate that the OP could work another 4 weeks and still never get the paperwork signed. Better to find out now than after gifting 260 (or more) hours of free work and getting zero benefit and failing the class.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 15:57
  • This is a clear cut case, of the author being taken advantage of, because it’s required for their course work. Well exceptions exist for a reason and a company taking advantage of a student is a great explanation for that exception. @Ren Contact whomever at your school that would handle issues with the internship
    – Donald
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:22
  • 24
    @GregoryCurrie "being very busy" is not an excuse to exploit a person 12 hours a day for free. Work agreements have to be signed before work starts, even if the employer is the Prime Minister. Everything else is malicious, probably illegal exploitation.
    – wimi
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:42
  • 1
    @wimi Not every location requires a written work contract. This is generally true in the USA for example. We don't know if the OP has been instructed to work 12 hours a day, or even if the boss is aware. We know the boss in only in the office for 2 hours a day, so it's very possible they are not aware how much the employee is working. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:48

I would definitely suggest contacting your university about the situation and circumstances. And, follow what they say to do.

I understand that you took this opportunity because you needed it, and wasn't sure you could not get another opportunity. And you started working, unpaid(although, not sure if the paperwork from the university considers it a paid or unpaid internship), with the understanding, in good faith that the paperwork would get signed. I'm not sure about the working for 12 hours bit...but ok....

Now, I'm understanding your dilemma...your internship only lasts so long...and you've now wasted a week (or more) without signed paperwork and you are for the moment, being taken advantage of by your manager. He's getting free labor and you can't really leave.

Whether this is deliberate or he really is very busy, is up for debate...it could be either way...but either way, you have a ticking clock.

Your university could be helpful in putting pressure on your employer or telling you to cut and run...or finding you a suitable placement. Or preventing you from actually failing the class.


Document. Make your request via email. In that email, tell him the hours you've worked thus far, and tell him what you need from him. This will memorialize what has already happened. If there is an HR, carbon copy the HR department as well. If email is not possible, send an SMS.

Keep a log of your hours. Download an app on your phone that helps log your gps locations and hours worked. Take pictures/videos of yourself at work. Keep track of the names and contact information of any witnesses/clients that have seen you work for that person.

Contact your university and ask for advice. If you're in the US, educate yourself about OSHA laws and regulations in case any of them apply to you (or research the equivalent for your country). If it does turn out that you were being scammed, contact the Department of Labor for your State (or the equivalent in your country), and make a complaint of wage theft (but do not tell him about this in advance).

I realize this is an unpaid position, but if it turns out that he doesn't have the certifications and essentially lied to you, the very least he can do is pay you minimum wages, unemployment benefits, and income taxes (plus penalties). This is where all the documentation you've gathered will be useful.

But in the end, you have to refuse to work until he fills out that paperwork. And this is where I disagree with Gregory Currie. Refusing to work until he fills out that paperwork isn't being rude. It's just business. And this can be done very politely. If he says he doesn't have time, just tell him "That's fine. But if you can't sign it now, I'll have to go home then. And if you want me to come back when you have more time, that's fine too. But if I come back, I can not work for you until I have this paperwork actually filled out. These are are instructions that were given out by my University."

Then, you need to be a broken record about this. Even if that person keeps on pressuring you, keep on repeating the same thing. And if the discussion doesn't go anywhere, just walk away and go home.



Step 1: Contact your university. If they have this requirement, then they have someone who is an expert on the rules/regulations surrounding the requirement. Find out who that person is and let them know the status: you are doing the work at the company, but the company refuses to sign the paperwork (make sure you say they are refusing to sign; if you say they are "perpetually forgetful" then your university may say "just ask them harder" which is not the answer you want). See what they say, maybe there's a workaround.

Here's the thing about employment agreements: They have to work both ways, or nobody would take them. If the company gets nothing out of the employee, then the employer ends the agreement, because they're paying for something and getting nothing out of it. If the employee gets nothing out of the company, then the employee is spending their time producing something for someone else and not getting any sort of reward for their effort. In neither case does this work.

For you, as an unpaid intern, your reward for your work is getting your university requirement completed. You aren't being paid, and getting "paid" in "experience" or "exposure" doesn't get the bills paid (or, in your case, the university requirements filled). So, you need to get this rectified. There are 2 ways to get it rectified: You can either get the forms signed (to make the agreement work as intended where both parties benefit) or to stop working (which would sever the agreement). With that said:

Step 2: Remind your boss harder to sign the forms. Ask him multiple times per day. Stalk him on his way out of the office as he's leaving for the day and pester him. As an absolute last resort, simply walk into his office as he arrives and refuse to leave until the forms are signed. This is your effort to mend the relationship and get the employment agreement working equally.

Step 3: Stop showing up for work. Do not submit any resignation letter, do not call or email anyone, just simply stop showing up. This is you severing the agreement. Do not give the company any sort of paper trail that you aren't there, the same way as they are not giving you any sort of paper trail that you were there. They will either accept your severance of the agreement by not contacting you, or they will contact you and wonder why you're not at work. If they contact you, the only words you should say are "I need my paperwork completed". No matter what they say, no matter what they do, no matter anything, the only words out of your mouth should be "I need my paperwork completed". They will either agree to sign the paperwork, or they won't. If they do, say: "Thank you, I will be at work at 5am tomorrow" and hang up the phone. Then go to work. If the papers are not signed by the end of the day on that day, then the company has lied to you and you should stop showing up for work, and don't take any more of their communication.

Honestly, it should not be this hard, it's just signing a form. I've laid out a plan for what to do in the absolute most extreme circumstance, but it's very unlikely to play out this way. Reasonable people should be able to be negotiated with without taking extreme measures, but if extreme measures need to be taken, these are the extreme measures I would go with.

  • There is no agreement to "sever" at this point, which seems to be what the GM wants. No liability or responsibility for the company.
    – Xavier J
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 19:29

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