In a significant move towards fair labour practices, Scottish MP Stewart McDonald, in collaboration with Unite Hospitality, advocates for a ban on unpaid trial shifts, an approach notably widespread in the hospitality industry, particularly in bars and restaurants.
During a debate in Westminster Hall, McDonald, representing Glasgow South for the Scottish National Party, highlighted the urgency of addressing this issue. He emphasised to ministers that enacting legislation against unpaid work trials is "entirely proportionate and necessary."
Unpaid work trials, a common practice in the recruitment process, require job applicants to work without pay, often in the guise of a 'trial shift.' This has been a contentious issue, as exemplified in 2018 when Restaurant Mark Greenaway in Edinburgh faced criticism from hospitality unionists for using unpaid trials in their hiring process.
Despite the Department for Business and Trade offering guidance on National Minimum Wage eligibility, including a section on unpaid work trials, the definition of a 'work trial' remains ambiguous. McDonald attempted to refine this by amending the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.
In a statement to The Caterer, McDonald shared his long-standing opposition to unpaid trial shifts, backed by distressing accounts and survey results indicating their frequent occurrence in the hospitality sector. "The legislation is too vague," he asserts, "and it's high time the government took decisive action by outright banning unpaid trial shifts."
However, McDonald clarifies his stance, stating, "I am not against trial shifts per se, but individuals must be compensated for their time and effort in these assessments. A fair day's work deserves a fair day's pay."
Echoing this sentiment, Unite Hospitality condemned the practice on X, a social media platform, saying: "Unpaid trials remain a stain on the hospitality sector. Asking a potential employee to work for free indefinitely is not just morally wrong; it should be illegal. We're joining forces with Stewart McDonald to eliminate unpaid trials."
In the comments section below, we invite our readers to share their thoughts and experiences regarding unpaid trial shifts.