Thank you to all those who have contacted me about unpaid work trials.
Exploitation of a worker is completely unacceptable, no ifs, no buts. It is for this reason that the Government have substantially increased HMRC’s enforcement budget from £13.2 million to £25.3 million to crack down on employers who fail to meet their obligations.
Relationships between employers and employees need to be fair with no party significantly "gaining" more over the other. If arranged in a genuine spirit of introduction, there can sometimes be benefit in a trial period for both employer and potential employee. When I ran my business, I remember offering half a day's trial to a lady who was not sure whether the work would suit her - the couple of hours confirmed she preferred where she was currently working so she stayed where she was. Had I simply offered her the job, she would have already resigned from her previous role and ended up out of work. So trial shifts can work for both parties.
Generally speaking, an employer does not have to pay for a trial shift so long as it is truly a trial but businesses are encouraged to agree a payment, or to meet any expenses costs as part of a trial period in advance. This means that potential employees enter into a contract with the employer and thus have the right to be paid what was agreed. Given the flexibility of the UK’s labour market and the variances across job types and recruitment practices, I think it would be difficult to legislate wholly against the use of trial periods.
You may remember that last year, the Prime Minister commissioned Matthew Taylor to lead a review into modern working practices. The Taylor Review was published earlier this year, and in response the Government will introduce a number of new measures against unscrupulous employers. Such measures will include a clear definition of employment status and further action to ensure unpaid interns are not doing the job of an employed worker. Employers will be required to set out clearly written terms from day one of the employment relationship and to ensure this is extended to all workers in the business.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the debate on Friday as I already had appointments at home in South Cambs. Although the Government are already undertaking a lot of work in this policy area, I want to assure you that this remains an important issue for me. Indeed, our Work & Pensions Select Committee (of which I am a member) held an inquiry into the Taylor Review recently. You might wish to read more here: