• International Workplace
  • 4 April 2018

MPs call for unpaid trial shifts to be made illegal

A private members' bill, which seeks to make unpaid trial shifts illegal, has had its second parliamentary hearing.

Currently, asking a prospective employee to carry out a voluntary trial shift is legal, with smaller businesses often relying on these as part of their recruitment processes. However, the Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Prohibition) Bill tabled by Stewart McDonald MP, will force employers to pay prospective staff from the first hour of work during a trial or probation period, whether or not they are kept on in the role.

Stewart McDonald MP said:

“My Bill is needed because the law about this is currently a grey area. In 20 years of the National Minimum Wage Act there hasn’t been one case against the use of unpaid trials shifts. Bringing forward a ban of the practice of unpaid trial shifts will make a real difference to the lives of many people – especially young people – throughout Scotland and the UK. It is really encouraging that it already has cross-party support at Westminster.” 

Bryan Simpson from Unite Hospitality, which is backing the Bill, said:

"The use of unpaid trial shifts particularly within the bars and restaurant industry has grown exponentially over the past few years with employers using unpaid trial shifts as free labour mostly to cover staff absence. We need to clarify the legal position for employees and employers alike with legislation which ensures that workers get paid properly."

The Federation of Small Businesses, however, is against the Bill, commenting that unpaid shifts are a valuable part of the recruitment process.

Colin Borland said:

"Small businesses can sometimes be reticent about hiring or even looking to expand headcount when the work is there because they are worried about making the wrong decision.

"The more that we can do to make sure that they hire the right people the better. You just have to be very careful that it doesn't cross into what's exploitative."