Many places, very usually bars and restaurants, after an initial job interview ask potential employees to come and work a 'trial shift' to see if they are up to the job.
However, some employers do not pay workers for this trial shift and even for a number of 'trial' shifts. We have been asked by a number of people this has happened to investigate the law in this area and find out whether employers are legally required to pay workers for time worked as a trial shift.
Finding information online about this topic is difficult and answers conflicting. It seems there is no legislation stating either way whether employers are required to pay workers for trial shifts.
So, we spoke to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), a government body that offers guidance and advice to both employers and employees on employment matters.
The Acas adviser we spoke to said, that generally an employer does not have to pay you for a trail shift – so 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, the adviser stated that the problem arises where the work done ceases to be a trial and becomes actual employment. It is unclear when this will occur but 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 said that the best advice they can give on working a trial shift is to agree payment or expenses in advance, this way you enter into a contract with the employer and thus have the right to be paid anything that is agreed.
Top Tips for Trial Shift Workers
- Where an employer suggests you come in for a trial shift, don't be afraid to discuss the details of this shift with them. You should ask how long the shift will last, what is expected of you on shift, whether you will be paid or whether they will pay you expenses.
- If the shift is only for a couple of hours, the employer is not obliged to pay you. You could ask them to pay any expenses if you are going to be out of pocket but unfortunately you may just have to do the work voluntarily if you really want the job.
- Where the employer tells you that you are to work a full shift, or even multiple shifts, they should pay you at least the National Minimum Wage. At this point, this has ceased to be a trial and is entering contract of employment territory.
- Don't be afraid to say that you are not willing to work a full shift or multiple shifts unpaid – it may be that the employer is just trying to save some money by not paying you.
- You should agree pay, expenses and any other benefits before you do the shift. If possible, get this in an email or in writing. This way, the employer must provide what has been agreed and you have evidence of the agreement.
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