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Unpaid Trial Work

Unpaid trial work occurs when an employer asks a job applicant to work as an employee for a “trial period” and does not pay wages for the period worked. You should always be wary about agreeing to work an unpaid trial period for any potential employer.

The most important thing you should know about unpaid trial work – it rarely leads to paid work! A JobWatch survey showed that in only 13 per cent of cases was a paid position offered after the completion of an unpaid trial.

What is unpaid trial work?

Unpaid trial work occurs when an employer asks a job applicant to work as an employee for a “trial period” and does not pay wages for the period worked.

Voluntary work is not unpaid trial work. When someone volunteers their services they do so for reasons which can include gaining experience in an area they want to work in or working for a community or charitable organisation. The possibility of an offer of employment is usually not in consideration.

You should always be wary about agreeing to work an unpaid trial period for any potential employer. The main reasons job seekers are willing to undertake unpaid trial work are:

  • they assume that they will be paid for any work carried out;
  • the employer has had led them to believe that they have already been offered the job;
  • they believe that an employer is legally entitled to get applicants to work for a trial period without pay; or
  • they are desperate to do anything which could lead to a job, even if the chance of getting paid work is small.

Unpaid trial work is increasing

Employers usually say that the practice of unpaid trial work is increasing. We know of unscrupulous employers who continually employ people on an unpaid trial basis because it is cheaper to keep advertising a job than to pay wages.

JobWatch callers who have complained about unpaid trial work had heard about their jobs in newspapers, at an employment agency, by “word of mouth” and from notices in shop windows.

Trial work can be for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks and sometimes even a few months. It can be in a shop, an office, a pub or restaurant, a health centre, a factory, a solicitor’s office. You can be asked bto wait on tables, dig a garden, work a machine in a factory, clean a building, wash dishes, type or answer phones.

Unfortunately unpaid trial work happens in most industries and occupations. Sometimes the employer will be up front about the fact that there will be no wages, but most often nothing is said about the wages at all. Then, when the job seeker asks about the wages, he or she is told that the trial period was unpaid work.

More information about your rights as an employee, even during trial work, can be found in the attached fact sheet, which we recommend you download.

For further support

Call our Telephone Information Service on Melbourne Metro (03) 9662 1933 or Regional Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania on 1800 331 617.

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