The woman branded the practice a “huge scam” after she was asked to carry out several trials to secure employment, one of which she says she was paid for with a slice of banana bread. She added that an office-based business asked her to carry out a two-week trial — which she alleges would have been unpaid.
“Don’t move to Australia if you’re not okay with giving away free labour,” the woman warned her online following. “For any job you get here, you have to do a trial shift... While I understand the value of it, I think it’s kind of f***ed up.”
Aussies clap back at claims of forced labour
In a video posted to her TikTok, Lili warned people thinking of coming to Australia that "for any job" a person has to do a trial shift but hundreds of Aussies quickly responded to let her know this is not always the case. "Funny how people have one experience and just assume that’s the way it is… I have never done a free trial," shared one person.
Most people responded that unpaid trials are actually against the law entirely. "You must be paid for trial shifts, it’s the law. Also never heard of trial shifts outside service industry jobs," another said.
Despite this common belief, there are some situations where unpaid work is allowed.
Responding to one comment, Lili said: "I think there is a huge scam going on where they take advantage of foreigners with trial shifts it’s so frustrating."
Unpaid work for skill demonstration is legal in Australia
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman's website, a brief work trial can be legally unpaid if it is necessary to evaluate someone's suitability for the job, the person is not an employee, and:
it involves no more than a demonstration of the person's skills that are relevant to the vacant position
it is only for as long as needed to demonstrate the skills required for the job. This will be dependent on the nature and complexity of the work, but could range from an hour to one shift
the person is under direct supervision of the potential employer for the entire trial.
Anything beyond what is reasonably required to demonstrate the skills required for the job must be paid and unpaid work trials can easily become illegal if any sort of employment relationship is formed.
If an employment relationship exists unpaid work is illegal
If an employment relationship exists, then an employee is required under law to be remunerated for their work and it is illegal to ask them to do an unpaid shift.
The following factors should be considered when trying to work out if you are considered an employee, according to Fair Work:
What is the nature and purpose of the arrangement? For example, does the arrangement involve productive work rather than just meaningful learning, training and skill development?
How long is the arrangement for? The longer the period of the arrangement, the more likely the person is an employee. Although even short engagements can still be an employment relationship.
How significant is the arrangement to the business? For example, is the work normally performed by paid employees? Does the business or organisation need this work to be done?
What are the person's obligations? It's unlikely an employment relationship if the role is not mainly for the operational benefit of the business.
Who benefits from the arrangement? The main benefit from a genuine unpaid work arrangement should flow to the person undertaking the role. If the business or organisation is gaining a significant benefit from the person's work, an employment relationship is more likely to exist.
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