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End exploitative unpaid workplace trial shifts

3 min read

With the Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Prohibition) Bill, we will be just one step closer to ending the deeply troubling and degrading experiences that are caused by unpaid workplace trial shifts, says Stewart McDonald MP.

With the most recent figures showing unemployment across these islands rising, and even more people wondering how they can to make ends meet, now is exactly the time to highlight my Private Members Bill that aims to ban unpaid trial shifts.

The Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Prohibition) Bill, seeks to end the exploitative practice of offering people trial shifts without pay. Often these trial shifts can last several weeks, with no guarantee of a job at the end of the period and receiving no wages for the labour that has been put in. 

This Bill is needed because the law is extremely grey, and that is being used to take advantage of people in a cynical and unfair way.

In 20 years of the National Minimum Wage Act there hasn’t been one case – far less a prosecution or government action – against the use of unpaid trials shifts.

More so, unpaid trial shifts contribute to an estimated £3billion in missing wages every year.

Last year, I ran a consultation that showed some deeply troubling and degrading experiences.

Some people were being ignored by employers once they completed a trial period, and others found out that there was never a job to offer in the first place, with so called “ghost trial shifts” being put in place to plug staffing shortages.

Whilst I recognise there are many employers out there who do follow good practice when it comes to trial shifts, there is a growing consensus that this unregulated practice cannot continue.

This just highlights the need for further protection for workers, which is what the Bill will provide.

So what’s actually in the Bill, you may be asking?

The Bill establishes exactly what a trial work period is.

It sets out the requirement that employers must comply with when offering a trial period: Such as making clear how many positions are available, a copy of the job description and the right to feedback – this is following a lot of feedback from the public about trial shifts being offered where no job actually exists.

Crucially, the Bill makes clear that when a person is taking part in a trial period that they are to be paid at least the national minimum wage. And it makes provision for applicants to challenge an employer where they may be in breach of the law.

If passed, this Bill will be just one step closer to ending the many exploitations that exist out there in the workplace.

The Bill is set to be debated and voted on in the House of Commons on March 16th.

Only with enough MPs present and voting in favour of the Bill can we have any hope of turning it into law, and together we can end the unfair practice of unpaid trial shifts.

I hope my fellow MPs will join me in the lobby.


Stewart McDonald is SNP MP for Glasgow South


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