The SNP just challenged the government to make unpaid ‘work trials’ illegal

The exploitative practice sees employers demanding new staff work trial shifts for nothing before being offered paid employment, or not, as the case may be.

Ian Blackford the SNP’s leader at Westminster has challenged the Tory government to back an SNP bill to end the ‘scandal’ of unpaid work trials.

In a speech at the SNP conference today, Blackford called the practice, whereby employers take on new staff for ‘trial’ shifts without paying them, ‘an injustice’ and ‘exploitative’.

The private members bill, proposing an end to these unpaid ‘trial shifts’ is being brought forward by Glasgow South’s MP Stewart McDonald.

Mr McDonald who represents Glasgow South, said in July that he was proposing the bill after witnessing the practice of ‘work trials’ at two cafes in his own constituency.

The cafes in Glasgow were exposed requiring staff to work for 40 hours unpaid before being considered for a paid job.

Work trials are technically not illegal in the UK; a point which the SNP bill wishes to amend. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has said that the law isn’t clear on how long a trial has to be before it becomes work.

Today Ian Blackford said the “scandal of exploitative trial shifts” disproportionately effect young people and those returning to work after a break. Blackford added:

“When you are desperate for a job and trying to get off benefits – if you get them at all – then any trial shift seems better than no trial shift.”

“But no one should be deprived of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. If you do the job you should be paid for it,” Blackford said.

The bill “can make a real difference in the lives of those looking for work”, Mr Blackford said, adding: “we can make life fairer for our young people, and we can end the rip off practice of businesses who take prospective employees for granted.”

The Westminster leader called on the government and Labour opposition to “join with us and back this bill” and “walk the walk” on workers’ rights.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.