Many people, particularly younger workers, are being exploited in the workplace by companies using unpaid ‘trial’ shifts to secure free labour.
This unscrupulous practice has some people working up to 40 hours without receiving a penny in pay and with no guarantee of paid employment at the end of the trial period.
As things stand, it is worrying that people are being asked to work shifts as part of a ‘trial’, when it turns out there may not even be a no job available, with unscrupulous employers simply taking advantage of free labour to fill a gap in their shift rota.
Those looking for work are particularly vulnerable to this kind of exploitation, as the prospect of a job is worth pursuing if you’re trying hard to secure employment.
This is both unreasonable and a real abuse of power. It also gives those employers a bad name, although most companies treat their staff with dignity and respect.
Things must change if we are to stop the iniquitous practice of unpaid trial shifts once and for all. That is why I am pleased to sponsor my SNP colleague, Stewart McDonald MP’s Private Members Bill which he is taking through Westminster to address this issue on Friday 16th March.
The Unpaid Trial Shift Periods (Prohibition) Bill would ensure that people are offered at least the minimum wage if they carry out the work another employee would normally undertake. This would not prevent people getting jobs or employers from trialling a potential recruit, but it would mean that proper employment regulations are put in place, to guarantee clarity and fairness for everyone.
All MPs can apply for a place in a ballot at Westminster to enable them to present a Private Members Bill. However, only a few are selected every year, so it is important that Bills going forward can make a real difference. Changing the regulations around unpaid trial shifts will drive forward positive change, so I very much hope this Bill secures sufficient support to proceed.
The Bill being brought forward would mean that in future employers will have to make it clear what jobs are available and not just use trial shifts to fill temporary staff shortages. Anyone on a paid trial would be guaranteed feedback if they don't get the job. These sensible and fair measures are supported by Trade Unions and employment specialists alike.
The Prime Minister claims her Tories are the ‘party of the workers.’ That is hard to accept as things stand. On this issue at least, the Tories must support this Bill and back fairness and dignity in the workplace.
The practice of unpaid trial shifts is not only soul destroying, it is does nothing to support people into sustainable employment. We must decisively tackle this scandal. Nobody should miss out on receiving a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and I will urge MPs from all parties to join us and ensure this Bill completes its journey through Parliament, to become law and end this injustice.