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Unpaid Trial Work

This Fact Sheet discusses unpaid trial work, which 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.

The most important thing you should know about unpaid trial work – it rarely leads to paid work! 

What is unpaid trial work?

The general rule is that you should be paid for every hour that you work as an employee. You may choose to agree to do a short (e.g. 1 or 2 hours) unpaid trial to demonstrate to an employer that you have the necessary skills to do a particular job. If you are supervised for the whole trial and you do not work for longer than is reasonably necessary to show that you have the required skills, then the Fair Work Ombudsman will not treat this as an unlawful underpayment of wages.

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.

Your rights

All employees are entitled to proper working conditions while on trial. Depending on the work done and the terms and conditions of the work, there are a range of legal requirements an employer must comply with. Proper conditions include the right to:

  • be paid the legal minimum rate of pay;
  • a healthy and safe workplace;
  • minimum terms and conditions of employment (see below);
  • receive regular pay slips and to have tax deducted from your wages;
  • have superannuation contributions made on your behalf (if eligible);
  • join a union;
  • WorkCover insurance in the event of a work related illness or injury, and
  • a workplace free of discrimination.

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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