MPs back ban on ‘exploitative’ unpaid trial shifts

Unite urges Government to ‘clarify’ legal position of both workers and employers ahead of bill reading

Some companies have been accused of using trial shifts to get free labour

MPs and unions are calling on the Government to enact a blanket ban on unpaid shift work, describing it as “exploitation” by employers.

Current employment laws allow companies to invite prospective employees to do trial shifts that may, or may not, lead to a job offer.

According to trade union Unite, there has been a “sixfold increase over three years” in registered complaints regarding unpaid shifts, the BBC reports.

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In February, SNP MP Stewart McDonald submitted a private members’ bill to “ban exploitative unpaid trial shifts”, claiming that they were “exploitative to workers – particularly young people, students and migrants”. The Bill will get its secondary parliamentary reading tomorrow.

“If people are going to be offered a trial period where they apply their skills in the hope of securing work then they should be paid fairly and properly,” McDonald said.

Unite backed the call in a statement on its website, saying: “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 union quoted an unnamed trial shift worker at supermarket chain Aldi as saying: “It is actually slave labour - they use you to get the shop ready for opening time and get annoyed if you make any mistakes.

“They just abandon you and come back moaning that you've not finished the million tasks you were down to do. They then emailed me the next day saying I was unsuccessful and that they can’t provide feedback because of the volume of applicants.”

Colin Borland from the Federation of Small Businesses told the BBC that unpaid shifts are a “valuable part of the recruitment process”, but “shouldn’t cross the line into exploitation”.

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