HMRC guidance on the use of unpaid work trials

HMRC have updated the guidance on work trials.

Jobseekers volunteer for a work trial. They keep getting their benefits whilst they’re on it and are not paid a wage. HMRC advice is that it doesn’t contravene any current legislation for businesses to use unpaid work trials, as long as they’re part of a genuine recruitment process and are not for longer than a reasonable length of time required to demonstrate the applicant’s suitability to do the work. This is a bit of a grey area and each case will be determined on its own merits.

BASE has long advocated the use of working interviews as a reasonable adjustment to the recruitment process. These should be planned and managed and we recommend the use of a written agreement between employer, jobseeker and provider to clarify and agree the process. A working interview allows the employer to observe the skills and knowledge listed in the person specification for a vacancy and it may follow a period of work experience where the jobseeker learns the role for which they are going to be assessed.

National Minimum Wage legislation permits a limited number of exceptions for particular schemes which permit unpaid work trials, including the government’s Work Trial scheme, which aims to help disadvantaged benefits claimants try work in a risk-free environment and which provides a job guarantee if both the jobseeker and the employer are satisfied following the trial.