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Trial work 

Most job offers are made after an interview.

When offered a job you may be asked to work for a trial or probation period. This is so that you and your employer can see if you can do the job and that you get along. Your employer must tell you how long the probation or trial period will be (it can only be for a maximum of three months). 

You must be paid for any training your employer requires you to do and they must pay for the cost of the training course. You must receive payment for any work you do.

Short work trial

An employer may get you to complete a short work trial.  This could be because they want to have an opportunity to see how more than one applicant fits in with their business.

This is a valid arrangement but they must pay everyone who completes the short work trial.

While you are completing this short work trial, you should be employed as a casual and you must be paid for a specific number of hours of work, known as the 'minimum engagement'.  This can range from 1.5 to 4 hours depending on the award that applies to the job you are doing.

Don't get conned - unpaid trial work is illegal

There is no such thing as 'unpaid trial work'. It is illegal for your employer not to pay you for any work that you do, even if it is only for a small number of hours (see minimum engagement above).

Contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 and let them know if this happens to you.

If you do not receive payment for the work trial, Fair Work can take steps to recover the payment from the employer.  However, it is important that you obtain some evidence of your unpaid work trial - this could be:

  • a copy of the advertisement (print or electronic) for the job
  • any correspondence (written or electronic) that you have received from the business about your appointment for trial work
  • names and phone numbers of witnesses who would be able to confirm that you were at the workplace at the time and date indicated. (This could be someone from another business who you may have had contact with during the trial work period)
  • photographic evidence.
  • diary record of the trial work.

Unpaid trial work should not be confused with unpaid school work experience programs.

Handy tip

If you don't get anything in writing from a potential employer confirming they have asked you to complete a short work trial, send them a letter, email or text message stating your acceptance to work the trial and set out the arrangements - date you will do the trial, start and finish time.  This can be used to support any claim for wages you may make later if you don't get paid!