End unpaid trial shifts in Brighton & Hove

We’re supporting a local campaign to end the practice of unpaid trial shifts in the city.

‘Say No To Unpaid Trial Shifts’ is a grassroots collective started by students in Brighton & Hove. The campaign group say using unpaid trial shifts during the job application process is unacceptable—a view that councillors endorsed unanimously in a notice of motion last year. 

An unpaid trial shift is where an employer fails to pay for work which either makes money from a prospective employee or saves money for the employer. The government issued new guidance as to what constitutes an unpaid trial shift in December 2018.

We have pledged to look at how we can help end the practice of unpaid trial shifts. We are gathering information from businesses and prospective job applicants to understand the scale and nature of the issue:

Why the council is taking action

Cllr Amanda Evans, Brighton & Hove’s Lead Member for Community Wealth Building said: “No-one should be expected to work for free so we want to collaborate with businesses and partners to put an end to unpaid labour that is unacceptable, unethical and unfair.

“The initiative is consistent with our support of the Brighton & Hove Living Wage campaign and an extension of our commitment to raise standards, celebrate good employers, retain good candidates and ensure all those working in our city can share in the wealth they are helping to create.”

The No Unpaid campaign group says unpaid trial shifts target young people, take advantage of vulnerable job-seekers and allow businesses (including many high street brands) to avoid paying wages, staff training and tax—and are therefore damaging the UK economy.

Of the people who responded to their snapshot survey, many reported unpaid trial shifts in the hospitality sector, but also highlighted major high street retailers, as well as other industries including cleaning and care work. 

Tourism supports nearly 22,000 jobs in Brighton & Hove, with more than 1,000 businesses involved bringing over £800 million into the local economy. It equates to 7.5% of the tourism economy of the south east region*. An end to unpaid trial shifts in this sector will enable more people to share in the city’s economic success. Community wealth building is an aim of the city’s economic strategy that was introduced last year. 

*Source: Visitor Economy Strategy and Destination Management Plan 2018-2023


Councillor Evans added: “Our surveys will build on the work of the No Unpaid campaign group by giving us local information that we can use to find practical ways of tackling the issue.”

Targeted communication with students and young people started in September to encourage them to fill in the applicants survey.

Closing date for our survey is 1 March 2020.

No unpaid campaign

Campaign co-founder Frank Chamberlain said: “The work of young people is demeaned by the concept that we should be asked to work for free. Too many young people, competing in a saturated job market, feel like they have no choice but to undertake unpaid trial shifts, with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. On some occasions, it has become apparent that employers had no intention of offering a job at all.

“Given so many people, young people and otherwise, rely on a secure income, this practice is both unethical and exploitative. We hear horror stories of nine hour shifts and ridiculous anecdotes of compensation being given in the form of bread, beer and even spices. Even short unpaid trial shifts are time-consuming, and force vulnerable jobseekers into working for free. This is not acceptable in today’s society.”

Frank added: “We want ethical employers to help us raise awareness of this unacceptable practice by pledging not to undertake unpaid trial shifts. To date, more than 100 businesses have done so.”

Mark Turner from the GMB trade union said: “This is a very important campaign and the GMB is pleased to be part of it. This arrangement of unpaid trial shifts needs to be totally eradicated because it particularly disadvantages young people within society. We welcome that the council has signed up to this along with the city’s three MPs and we as a union will continue to campaign at a local and national level.”

Unpaid trial shifts can be reported to HMRC who investigate claims on a case by case basis. No Unpaid has simplified this process by providing an easy-to-use complaint letter-generator on its website. ACAS also provide free, confidential help and advice for workers.

More information


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