What is a work trial and when is it okay?

Illustrative representation of What is a work trial and when is it okay?

What is a work trial?

As part of the recruitment process, an employer might ask you to do a work trial. A work trial is a short (often unpaid) stint in the workplace. Work trials give you a chance to demonstrate your skills and suitability for the position.

A work trial can be unpaid if it is for just long enough to show you have the skills to do the job. The length of the trial depends on the type and complexity of the work. They usually last from an hour to one short shift. You must be supervised at all times while doing a work trial.

Unpaid work trials - the rules

The employer must pay you at least the minimum rate of pay if:

  • they ask you to do productive work without supervision
  • they want you to come in for more than one shift to assess your suitability for the job.

If the employer does need more time to see if you are right for the job they can:

  • hire you as a casual or
  • employ you for a probationary period.

Make the most of a work trial

There are things you can do to make sure you get the most out of a work trial.

1. Know your rights

Some unpaid work trials may take advantage of young job seekers. The best way to protect yourself is to know what’s legal and what’s not.

Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman's unpaid work trial page for more information.

You can also watch this video from the Fair Work Ombudsman exploring When it is and is not okay to complete unpaid work.

2. Ask questions

When an employer asks you to participate in a work trial, get clear information about:

  • what skills and attributes you will be need to demonstrate in the workplace
  • how long would they like you to attend the workplace and
  • whether you’ll be paid for your time.

Need more information?

It can be hard to talk to an employer about tricky issues like unpaid work trials, especially if you are desperate for a job.

For tips for approaching an employer about a workplace concern, check out our article Difficult discussions at work.

You can also contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for help to resolve workplace issues.

This tool can help you:

…Or you can browse Job Jumpstart for other ideas and suggestions of what to do next.