Are Unpaid Trial Shifts Fair?

By 26th March 2018 Employment Law, Human Resources

It was widely reported in the press last week that job-seekers desperate for work are being asked by multiple employers to do unpaid shifts without any guarantee of employment at the end of it. In some cases, unpaid shifts with some employers added up to more than 40 hours.

As a result of this practice, a group of MPs have called for unpaid trial shifts to be banned in a private members bill that had a second reading last week.

A report in Personnel Today states that:  “The Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Probation) Bill, led by SNP MP Stewart McDonald, seeks to make unpaid shifts – used to determine whether a person has the skills necessary to be offered an employment contract – illegal.

“It said organisations that would like to offer a prospective employee a trial period should pay them at least the national minimum wage.”  Read more here.

It’s usually employers in the leisure industry like bars and restaurants that, after an initial job interview, ask potential employees to come and work a ‘trial shift’ to see if they are up to the job.

Whilst the private members’ bill is being considered, there is not a lot of advice available to potential employees who are asked to work an unpaid shift.  However, ACAS has said that generally an employer does not have to pay you for a trail shift as long as this is truly a trial. It would be possible for employer and trial worker to agree to ‘ a couple of hours’ of unpaid work.

However, problems arise when the work ceases to be a trial and becomes actual employment. So generally, the guidance is that if you are asked to work more than a few hours to prove your worth, you should be paid at least National Minimum Wage.

ACAS also advises workers that it is best to agree payment or expenses in advance, this way you enter into a contract with the employer and so you have the right to be paid anything that is agreed.

At HCHR we are anticipating the result of the bill and its implications on both businesses and workers.

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