This week an article was published in the ABC News which documented the story of a young Australian couple who travelled 2,000 km from South Australia to Queensland on the premise that they had secured employment at a rural roadhouse.
It was only arriving at the location that they were informed by management that the first week of work, a combined 90 hours between the couple, was going to be unpaid.
While this story ultimately had a happy ending for the couple, this story certainly raises questions about what businesses are lawfully able to do when seeking to evaluate a person’s skills and suitability for a vacant position.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) it is lawful for businesses to request a prospective employee to work unpaid work trial so long as:
- the trial demonstrates the person’s skills;
- the trial lasts on as long as is necessary to demonstrate the person’s skills as relevant to the position they are trialling for; and
- The person undertaking the trial is directly supervised.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the length of the trial is “dependent on the nature and complexity of the work, but could range from one hour to one shift”. If the employer seeks to further assess the prospective employee’s suitability for the position, they must then:
- pay them at least the minimum rate of pay;
- employ them as a casual employee; and/or
- employ them for a probationary period and pay them accordingly.
If this article has raised any concerns for you or your organisation please do not hesitate to contact either John Hayward or Kate Smith on (07) 4046 1124, for advice specific to your circumstances.