University would not have been possible for me had I not had a part-time job. I worked practically full-time through the summer before I came to uni, and I went home every weekend during first year to stay working part-time at this same job. After I’d been working there for two and a half years I went and worked in America (last summer), and after I’d been back in England for less than a week I got a job working behind a bar. However, a few weeks ago, I found out that my workplace was closing for three months for refurbishment and, I’m not going to lie, I was worried. Cue frantic job applications!
Why are you telling me this? I hear you cry. Well, I’m telling you this because, recently, I got a job interview for a restaurant/bar in town (I won’t name and shame them but just know that they should be shamed!), and they offered me a trial shift two days later (Thursday). “You’ll only be working for two hours” they said. Two hours? More like over 4! Now, I’m not afraid of hard work, and I’ve definitely done far longer shifts than this before, but you know why I’m annoyed? I didn’t get paid, that’s why. I didn’t even get a cut of the tips (and it’s a fancy place so there were definitely tips!).
I don’t know if they’re going to offer me the job yet, but I have no intention of taking it; as well as not being paid, the manager was one of the rudest people I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting/working with (although I must say the rest of the team were lovely), and you can’t expect someone to work for them, in place of a regular member of staff and whilst you talk to them like they’re something you stepped in, for free under the pretence of ‘assessing how they work’.
Maybe I’m just bitter because it was a waste of time. I don’t know.
What I do know, however, is that I’m not the only person I know who this has happened to. One of my childhood friends once went for an unpaid trial shift for a job she desperately needed, only to be told that they didn’t want her. What’s more is, she later found out that they had done this to lots of other people over the course of a few weeks. It sounded like they had no intention of hiring anybody for a while; instead they just wanted people- young people who they knew were desperate for jobs- to work for free. It’s effectively slave labour.
I also have a friend, who I met here at university, who had to work a full shift as a waiter at a restaurant as a trial and later found out it was unpaid (that’s the thing, they don’t tell you its unpaid beforehand). He later got offered, and accepted, the job but he wasn’t happy about the unpaid trial thing. And rightly so in my opinion.
I think the intention behind trial shifts is a good one as often how people come across on a piece of paper is completely different to how they are in real life. However, I also think that the practice of not paying people who are effectively acting as a member of staff for a shift (and not telling them it will be unpaid beforehand) is sly and unfair. Obviously if they do something that is detrimental to the company then it’s not unfair to not give them money for their trouble, but that’s another point entirely!
Unpaid trials are on a par with unpaid internships; people, especially young people and students, are desperate for jobs so they will do the work, and companies know this, so they will still continue to exploit people this way for as long as they can get away with it.
It’s time this stopped. If you want to assess someone at work, if they do a decent job, and/or they are replacing a regular member of staff for the day/night then surely £20 wouldn’t be a problem would it? Or, as in my case, even just a cut of the tips that they rightly earned. This exploitation of people who are just trying to make money to live is not fair. Young people are not free labour and it’s time they were stopped being treated as such!