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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!
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:
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:
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.