NMW guidance on unpaid work trial periods

21 December 2018

A new section has been added to minimum wage guidance covering unpaid work trial periods which includes several example scenarios to assist employers.

The views of the Government set out in this guidance are not binding or determinative in any case but are intended to assist employers and individuals in identifying circumstances in which at least the National Minimum or National Living Wage (NMW / NLW) must be paid. 

It is for HMRC enforcement officers, and ultimately for tribunals and courts, to decide whether the NMW / NLW should be paid in any particular case. Employers who do not pay at least the NMW / NLW for work trials should consider seeking professional advice on whether this would breach NMW or other employment law. 

As part of a recruitment process, an individual may be asked by a prospective employer to carry out tasks, without payment, to help the employer to decide whether the individual has the skills and qualities required for the job. Often this will be a legitimate practice, but some employers may use unpaid trial work periods to obtain work or services for which at least the NMW / NLW should be paid.

Current law does not define a “trial work period” or state precisely when at least the NMW / NLW must be paid.  NMW legislation provides that an individual who is “working” for minimum wage purposes must be paid at least the NMW or NLW. Most workers in the UK who are over compulsory school age and who ordinarily work in the UK are entitled to be paid at least the NMW / NLW.

See pages 20 to 25 of the guide on NMW / NLW - Calculating the minimum wage to read the new section on unpaid work trial periods.