Pressure is mounting on the government to end exploitative unpaid trial shifts following reports they are being used to cover staff absences.
Earlier this month a group of MPs put forward proposals to ban unpaid shifts for job candidates, following lobbying from Unite, which is calling on business minister Kelly Tolhurst to ban the practice.
The parliamentary private members bill to ban the shifts was put forward after a Jersey employment tribunal ruled in February that a woman who worked a trial shift for a kitchen porter position at a Ruby’s restaurant but was not offered the role should be paid £30.
Campaigners hope the ruling will be replicated in similar cases on the UK mainland, where the number of unpaid trial shifts has rocketed in recent years.
Unite said there has been a six-fold increase in the number of unpaid trial shifts over the past three years – with the number of complaints the union receives going from around three per week to as many as 20.
Adam Brown, from Edinburgh, is one of those who has been ripped off by an employer using unpaid trial shifts.
He said, “I was working (a trial shift) as a waiter and was supposed to shadow another waiter but as someone called in sick I got my own section and the other waiter monitored me/my tables.
“The owner practically laughed in my face when I asked to be paid for my trial shift. The response was ‘that’s just how it is in hospitality’.”
Other people who have contacted Unite spoke of employers asking people to come in for unpaid trial shifts as a cheap way to cover sicknesses and staff absences.
Unite in Hospitality’s Bryan Simpson said, “We know from our members across the hospitality industry that the use of unpaid trial shifts particularly within the bars and restaurant industry has grown exponentially over the past few years with employers large and small using unpaid trial shifts as free labour 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. We would urge the Minister Kelly Tolhurst to act to alter ensure that workers are paid from the first hour of work.”