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Will MPs outlaw unpaid trial shifts?

The bill, if enacted, would require employers to pay staff on trial shifts the national minimum wage as well as providing a job description that outlines the length of the trial shift and the qualities needed to secure permanent employment. Employers would be required to provide feedback if requested.
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MPs will debate tomorrow (16 March) a parliamentary bill that seeks to make unpaid trial shifts illegal. Contributor David Israel, Employment Law Partner – Royds Withy King.

The bill, if enacted, would require employers to pay staff on trial shifts the national minimum wage as well as providing a job description that outlines the length of the trial shift and the qualities needed to secure permanent employment. Employers would be required to provide feedback if requested.

The legislation is not being focused on any particular industry, but would impact the hospitality, leisure and media industries. David Israel, a partner in the Employment team of national law firm Royds Withy King said: “The National Minimum Wage Act allows for non-payment when someone is participating in a scheme ‘seeking or obtaining of work’ or ‘designed to provide training, work experience or temporary work’.

“The mischief appears to be the utilising of such schemes to provide free labour on the pretext that it is part of an exercise to assess a candidate’s capabilities. The remedy available to individuals who believe they have been exploited is rarely used – they take the view that complaining would work against them, so they stay silent.”

David continues: “The proposed legislation puts the onus on the employer to take active steps. This is arguably the better way to deal with the problem, as it requires a business to be proactive rather than reactive, and policing becomes all the easier.

“Legislation is needed when there is disparity of treatment, especially when it affects the more vulnerable. The legislation, if passed, will have no impact upon good employers – it will though impact those who seek to push the boundaries of fair practice.”

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