Stewart McDonald, the SNP MP for Glasgow South, has today published his Private Members Bill that he hopes will see the end of exploitative unpaid work trials.

Picture of Stewart McDonald MP

The bill which has attracted cross party support had its first reading in Parliament on July 19th 2017 and will have its second reading on March 16th 2018.

Unpaid work trials, frequent in the hospitality industry amongst others, particularly affect young workers and migrants. Often these trials last one day but Mr McDonald has highlighted one example, Mooboo Bubble Tearooms in Glasgow, which required prospective employees to undertake 40 hours of unpaid work with no guarantee of a job at the end of it.

In addition to these unofficial work trials Jobcentre Plus also runs a Work Trial Programme which makes unemployed claimants do 30 days of work experience with a company again with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. Their website boasts to employers “It’s risk free – you can try the person out before making a final decision” and “there are no wage costs – people continue to get their benefits.”

An independent report published by Middlesex University based on their research found that workers were losing out on at least £2.7 billion in wages due to these unpaid work trials.

Mr McDonald’s bill sets out to achieve the following:

  • Employers must inform the applicant how long the trial work period will last.
  • Employers must provide the applicant with a job description outlining the qualities the applicant needs to demonstrate in the trial work period.
  • Employers must agree to provide the applicant with feedback from the trial work period.
  • Employers must inform the applicant what arrangements will be made for notifying them of the outcome of the trial work period.
  • Employers must ensure that the applicant is remunerated in respect of the work carried out during the trial work period at a rate which is not less than the national minimum wage.

Failure on an employer to meet any of these conditions would see them liable for prosecution under section 31(1) of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.

During the second reading of the bill next month Mr McDonald requires at least 100 MPs to be in the commons chamber to force a vote in the event that opponents of the bill try and talk it out. Should it pass this second reading it will go to committee stage, where amendments may be made, before returning to Parliament for a third reading after which it can be enacted into law.

If passed the Act, which would be known as the Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Prohibition) Act 2018, would come into force in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Have you, or someone you know, taken part in an unpaid work trial? If so let us know about it by leaving a comment below.

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