Are interns or trainees covered under the EPF?

April 29, 2024
EPF applicability

By Rupin Chopra and Apalka Bareja


The bustling world of internships and training programs provides invaluable exposure for aspiring professionals. However, for companies offering these opportunities, a question often arises: are interns or trainees covered under the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) scheme in India?Whenever, an intern or a trainee join any organization for training or internship they are usually paid stipend. The question of whether the trainees or interns covered under the employees provident fund scheme remains a topic of debate and uncertainty. Internship and training programs are important components for professional development, as they offer invaluable hands-on experience and skill enhancement opportunities. Determining EPF applicability hinges on the specific details of the program and the nature of relationship between the intern/trainee and the company. In July, 2022, the Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO)  released a circular wherein they clarified the status of student-trainees under any scheme. This circular has been issued in furtherance of the circular published in October, 2015, wherein they had made a distinction related to student-trainees and whether they are covered under the EPF act. In this article  we will analyze whether the EPF act is applicable to the interns or trainees and precedents given by the courts.

Whether the intern or trainees covered under the EPF Act?

The Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 do not specifically mention whether the stipend paid to the intern or trainees come under the purview of the law. To provide clarity regarding it the EPFO vide its circular dated October 12, 2015, stated that the employer-employee relationship does not exist between the organization and student-trainee and so the payment of stipend, if any, provided by the organization to such student-trainees does not attract the provisions of the EPF Act, 1952.[1]

However, for the students getting placed in companies and appointed as employees of establishment, Employee Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 will be applicable on such employees even during on the job training/induction/other trainings taken after becoming employee.[2]

Criteria for student-trainee to be exempted from EPF[3]

The EPFO issued a circular in July 2022 wherein the conditions were specified as to when an intern or trainee would not be covered under the EPF act. These are:

  1. The educational institution must be recognized by the central or state government,
  2. On-the-job training must be part of the course,
  3. The course for which the on-the-job training is mandatory must be recognized by the central or state government.
  4. The student must complete the training within the prescribed period mentioned in the course.

Case: The Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Mangalore vs M/S Central Aercanut & Coca Marketing and Processing Co-Op [4]

In the present case, the Supreme Court has held that trainees are apprentices who are recruited under the Standing order of an organization or under the Apprentices Act and they are not subject to the provisions outlined in the EPF Act. Therefore, the employers are not under the obligation to contribute to their PF. The apex court further held that in the present case, the trainees were paid stipend for the period of training. They neither had right to employment nor they are under any obligation to accept employment if offered by the employer and they are specifically excluded from the definition of employee under section 2(f) of the EPF Act, 1952.

Case: Sri Rama Vilas Services Ltd. Vs Regional Provident Fund Commissioner[5]


Case: Gandhi Vinita Ashram vs Provident Fund Commissioner[6]

In above mentioned cases, it has been decided by the courts, that trainees are not employees and are not subject to the provisions of the EPF Act. The courts have held that the stipend paid to the trainees/interns do not fall within the ambit of wages. It must be pointed that the trainees/interns are recruited under a particular training scheme and they had no right claim other benefits, which are otherwise available to the permanent employees.

Case: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. Vs Union of India[7]

In the present case, the regional provident fund commissioner had held that the probationer trainees are to be treated as employees and are eligible for the EPF benefits. Aggrieved by the order, the BSNL challenged this decision in the Madras High Court. The Madras High Court upheld the decision given by the regional provident fund commissioner.


In conclusion, based on the case of The Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Mangalore vs M/S Central Aercanut & Coca Marketing and Processing Co-Op, it appears that the interns or trainees are not covered under the EPF Act, 1952. However, understanding the intricacies of EPF coverage for interns and trainees can be a complex task. By carefully considering the purpose, structure, and duration of the program, along with the nature of work performed, companies can make informed decisions regarding EPF applicability. While the above casesserves as a reference point, it showcases the need for clear definitions and guidelines regarding the inclusion of interns or trainees under the EPF Act. Employers and the EPFO should collaborate to establish transparent policies that safeguards the rights of the interns or trainees while ensuring compliance with the relevant laws.

Ritvik Kashyap, Intern at S.S. Rana & Co. has assisted in the research of this Article.

[1] Available at –

[2] Available at –

[3] Available at –

[4] (2006) 2 SCC 381

[5] (2000)ILLJ709MAD

[6] (1995)111PLR237

[7] (2006) 3 SCC 1

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