With all the potential outlay that goes into on-boarding a new employee, it’s not surprising that some businesses are tempted to treat the recruitment process similar to buying a big ticket item and opt for a, “try before you buy”, approach.

The benefits

On the one hand trialing a person is not a bad idea. This gives both the business and the potential employee the opportunity to consider whether there is a good fit. This will also allow the employer to determine if the potential employee has the necessary skills and right attitude to meet the business expectations. This can be a fruitful situation all round. However, it does appear that this apple-cart may soon overturn.

What does the law say about unpaid work trials?

At present there is no definite law in place making unpaid work trials unlawful. However, care should still be taken if offering this type of opportunity to prospective employees. Businesses who offer unpaid work trials outside of the Government Jobcentre Plus work trial scheme, may find that individuals start to question why no pay has been provided for the work which they have performed.

What are the risks?

In its broadest interpretation the National Minimum Wage Regulations provides that workers should be paid for work performed. Any breaches in relation to the Regulations are policed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).  So there is a possibility that well before any decision is made by Parliament to make unpaid work trials unlawful, disgruntled individuals may report businesses to HMRC. This in turn might result in an HMRC investigation and possible fines.

How will your business fare if its unpaid work trial practices are placed under scrutiny by HMRC? 

If your business is affected by the issues raised in this article, please feel free to contact us to discuss your options.

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