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Do You Get Paid for Trial Shifts UK?

Do You Get Paid for Trial Shifts

As a prospective employee, you may be wondering if you get paid for trial shifts in the UK. There is no legal requirement for employers to pay for trial shifts, but many choose to offer some form of compensation.

If you are looking for work in the UK, you may come across the term “trial shift.” A trial shift, also known as a working interview, is a shift that potential employees work before being officially hired. This allows employers to assess candidates’ skills and suitability for the role.

Trial shifts are commonly used in the hospitality sector, including restaurants, bars, hotels, and cafés. They may also be used in retail, care work, cleaning, warehouses, and other roles.

What is a Trial Shift?

A trial shift is an extended job interview, where a candidate comes in to work a short shift alongside current employees. This gives the employer a chance to see how the candidate performs in a real work environment before deciding whether to hire them.

Trial shifts usually last around 2-4 hours and involve doing the standard work required in the role. For example, in a restaurant you may be asked to work as a waiter or waitress, serving food and drinks to customers.

The aim of a trial shift is for the employer to assess your skills and suitability for the job. They will observe how you interact with customers, how quickly you pick up tasks, and how you work alongside the existing team.

At the end of the shift, the employer should provide feedback and let you know if they would like to offer you the job. If you impress during the trial shift, you are very likely to receive a job offer.

Why Are Trial Shifts Used?

There are several benefits to using trial shifts for recruitment:

Allows assessment of skills

Interviews only reveal so much about a candidate. A trial shift lets employers go beyond answers to questions and actually see you perform the real job duties. This helps assess if you have the necessary skills and abilities.

Shows suitability for the role

In an interview, anyone can say they have the required skills and experience. But a trial shift reveals if you are truly a good fit for that particular job and workplace. It shows how you cope with the specific demands of the role.

Tests workplace culture fit

Trial shifts give employers a sense of how well you work with the existing team. They can see if your work style and personality complement the workplace culture. Fitting in with the team is key.

Reduces staff turnover

Hiring someone who then leaves shortly after starting is disruptive for businesses. Trial shifts help filter out candidates who aren’t suited to the job, reducing staff turnover.

Allows candidate assessment

The trial shift also lets you assess the job to determine if it’s right for you. You get hands-on experience with the day-to-day work before accepting a position.

Overall, trial shifts allow thorough evaluation from both the employer and candidate’s perspective before making a hiring commitment. This results in better job matches.

Are Trial Shifts Legal in the UK?

Yes, trial shifts are legal and commonly used across many industries in the UK.

Currently, no specific laws outline the parameters of unpaid trial shifts or mandate when an employer is obliged to compensate an individual undertaking a work trial at or above the national minimum wage.

Nonetheless, the Government has provided a set of guidelines, accompanied by practical examples, intended to illustrate circumstances under which employers are expected to pay the national minimum wage to those participating in work trials. You can access this guidance here.

There are however some legal considerations around trial shifts that employers must adhere to:

  • Minimum wage – If you are over school leaving age, you are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for the duration of the trial shift. This depends on your age and is usually between £4.81 and £9.18 per hour.
  • Workplace rights – All regular workplace rights around breaks, health and safety etc still apply during trial shifts. You have the same rights as an employee.
  • Employment contract – A trial shift does not count as employment. You do not have a contract or guaranteed job. But if subsequently hired, your employment would start from the date of the trial shift.
  • Trial length – While there are no fixed limits, trial shifts longer than one day could be seen as excessive. Anything above three days is unlikely to be further beneficial.
  • Multiple trials – Employers should limit trials to one per candidate. Requesting multiple unpaid trials could be an abuse of the system.

As long as these factors are considered, trial shifts are a legally sound recruitment method in the UK.

So Do You Get Paid for Trial Shifts or Not?

As we mentioned at the begining of this article, there is no legal obligation for employers to pay for trial shifts in the UK. Payment is completely at the discretion of the company.

However, many employers recognise it is good practice to offer some form of compensation. This shows value for the candidate’s time and contribution.

According to research by Crossland Employment Solicitors in 2021, around 25% of employers pay a standard hourly wage for trial shifts. A further 55% pay a reduced hourly rate, with the remaining 20% offering no pay.

So while you may not always be paid for trial shifts, in most cases you will receive some monetary compensation. Here are the main approaches:

Full hourly wage

Some employers will pay you the standard hourly wage that the job attracts. This recognises that you are doing productive work for the company and following minimum wage requirements.

This may range from around £6 per hour for entry-level roles up to £15 or £20 per hour for skilled positions. Either the normal company payroll process is followed or you will be paid in cash at the end of the shift.

Reduced hourly rate

A common approach is to pay a reduced hourly rate for trial shifts, for example, the minimum wage. This compensates you for your time and meets legal minimums, but accounts for the fact you are not yet a hired employee.

Flat trial fee

Rather than paying by the hour, some companies offer a standard flat fee for completing a trial shift, for example, £20-30. This may be the same regardless of the duration or work done.

Unpaid

A minority of businesses, around 20%, do not provide any pay for trial shifts. However, unemployed candidates can still get support from the Jobcentre Plus Support for Work Trials scheme if unpaid.

Expenses covered

If no wages are provided, some companies cover any expenses incurred. For example, they may pay for your travel to the venue or provide a free meal during the shift.

Overall, while payment is discretionary, some form of compensation is offered by most employers using trial shifts for recruitment.

Should You Do an Unpaid Trial Shift?

If faced with an unpaid trial shift, you need to weigh up the potential benefits and drawbacks before deciding whether to proceed.

Potential benefits of unpaid trial shifts:

  • Gains you experience in the role and sector
  • Chance to demonstrate your skills and secure a job offer
  • Lets you evaluate the job and employer before committing
  • May be standard practice in certain industries like hospitality

Potential drawbacks:

  • Your time is unpaid, which may not seem fair
  • No guarantee of a job, despite contributing work
  • May take advantage of unemployed candidates’ situation
  • Sets a precedent of unpaid work with that employer
  • Requires commitment without a guaranteed return

Consider why that specific employer does not pay. Some industries like hospitality commonly use unpaid trials, so this may be standard practice. But scrutinise whether lack of pay reflects how they value employees.

Also, factor in your own situation. If you are unemployed, the potential job may outweigh no pay. But if financially secure, you may rather hold out for paid trials.

While unpaid trial shifts are legally allowed, assess each case based on the job, employer, and your circumstances. Paid trial shifts demonstrate more care for candidates.

What are Your Rights in a Trial Shift?

While undertaking a trial shift, you still have important rights that employers must legally adhere to:

National Minimum Wage

As mentioned, if you are over compulsory school age, you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for time worked. This ranges from £4.81 to £9.18 per hour depending on your age. Unpaid trials are only legal for school-age workers.

Breaks

You are entitled to standard break times of at least 20 minutes for shifts longer than 6 hours. For trial shifts, any breaks should be paid if the rest of the trial is paid.

Health and Safety

Full health and safety law applies, including requirements around training, protective equipment, accident reporting etc. You have the same rights to a safe workplace as employees.

Discrimination

Employers cannot discriminate against you due to protected characteristics like race, gender, disability etc. Normal equality laws apply.

Fairness

You should have a fair trial shift experience equivalent to a normal worker. Excessive hours or unrealistic tasks could be seen as unreasonable.

Feedback

At the end, you can fairly ask the employer for feedback on your performance and potential next steps. This is best practice.

While not yet an employee, you have legally protected rights during trial shifts. Familiarise yourself with these to avoid any problems.

How to Prepare for a Trial Shift

To maximise your chances of success, it is important to properly prepare for an upcoming trial shift:

Confirm details in advance

Check practical details like location, timing, dress code, meals, contact person etc. Arrive early so you start calmly.

Research the company

Look into the company’s history, values, products/services, customers, reviews etc. This shows interest and helps you engage.

Learn about the role

Understand the typical duties and responsibilities to gauge what will be expected of you. Ask if a job description is available.

Revise your application

Refresh yourself on what you included in your CV or application form. Be ready to back up any claims about your skills and experience.

Prepare questions to ask

Note down any questions about the job, training, team etc to ask during your trial. This shows enthusiasm.

Get plenty of rest

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Eat well and avoid alcohol to have energy and perform at your best.

Thorough preparation makes you more confident and effective during your trial shift, increasing your chances of success.

What Happens After a Trial Shift?

Once you have completed a trial shift, there are a few potential next steps:

Job offer

If the employer sees you as a good fit, they may offer you the job immediately after the trial or in the following days. You can then agree on a start date and main contract.

Further trial shifts

Sometimes employers request you complete 2-3 separate trial shifts before deciding. But too many can seem excessive.

Rejection

Unfortunately, you may not be successful and the employer decides to pursue other candidates. But get feedback to understand their reasoning.

On hold

The employer may put a decision on hold to try more candidates. Try to get an indication of timescales. Chasing shows enthusiasm.

Ideally, the employer will be in touch within a few days to provide clear next steps after the trial shift. Don’t be afraid to politely follow up if you do not hear back.

Trial Shifts: Conclusion

In summary, trial shifts give employers the chance to assess candidates’ ability in action before committing to hiring. They are commonly used for hospitality, retail and similar roles.

You are not legally entitled to be paid for trial shifts in the UK. But around 80% of employers offer some compensation for your time and contribution.

Before agreeing to a trial shift, consider the job opportunity and whether lack of pay reflects the employer. Understand you still have legal rights during trials.

Thorough preparation and professional conduct will help you excel during a trial shift. Overall, they give you the opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and potentially land a great new job.

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