Tuesday, 05 February 2019 00:41



A SNP MP has called on the UK government to bring forward its own legislation to prevent unscrupulous employers from asking job applicants to work without any payment or guarantee of a job.

Stewart McDonald MP will say that the UK government’s decision to block his Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Prohibition) Bill last year, and its subsequent failure to act, had allowed the exploitative practice to continue unchecked.

Stewart McDonald’s bill sought to end the practice of employers asking job applicants to work for hours, days, or even weeks without any payment or guarantee of a job at the end of it. Despite wide cross-party support for the bill, a public petition with over 140,000 signatures, and the backing of leading organisations including the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), the UK government prevented the bill from going to a vote.

If passed, the bill would have established in law what constitutes a trial work period, ensured that those on trial work periods are paid at least the minimum wage, and set requirements for employers, including making clear how many positions are available, providing a copy of the job description, and introducing a requirement for feedback. It would also have made provision to challenge those in breach of the law.

Unpaid trial shifts contribute to an estimated £3billion in lost wages in the UK every year. Following today’s debate, the SNP has called on the UK government to change the law or devolve powers over employment law to the Scottish Parliament so that the SNP can introduce legislation in Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart McDonald MP said:

“The culture of unpaid work is a scourge on society and the UK Government has to get a grip and make it clear that this practice should be banned outright – no ifs, no buts.

“I’m pleased to secure this debate and continue the fight against unpaid work trials - an exploitative practice that continues to blight our employment sector. I am clear in the view that work must always pay.

“Whilst the Government has finally acknowledged that unpaid work trials are prevalent across the board through their new guidance, it does not go far enough in protecting vulnerable workers.

“The Government is still clearly of the view that unpaid work trials should be permitted, and, despite saying such trials should last no longer than one day, the guidance is too vague in protecting workers should they fall victim to longer unpaid trials. The Government should back my proposals to ban unpaid work trials, and legislate for this immediately.”


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Notes to editors:

UK Government – Calculating the Minimum Wage Guidance – Unpaid Work Trials (p20-21). Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/761129/Calculating_the_minimum_wage_guidance_dec_2018.pdf

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