WESTMINSTER has come under fire for its "laughable" stance on upaid trial shifts.

SNP MP Stewart McDonald spoke out after a House of Commons petition by Glasgow-based student Ellen Reynolds gained more than 10,000 signatures. Reynolds completed a five-hour shift without pay but the Tory Government said they had no plans to ban the practice.

McDonald said the UK Government's claims that robust enforcement action is already taken against employers who exploit workers on unpaid shifts is "laughable".

McDonald, who represents Glasgow South, previously brought a bill to Parliament, which sought to end the practice of employers asking job applicants to work for hours, days, or even weeks without any payment or guarantee of a job at the end of it, but it was talked rejected by Westminster.

It is estimated that unpaid work trial shifts contribute to an estimated £3 billion in lost wages in the UK every year. 

He said: "The UK Government's claims that they already take robust enforcement action against employers who exploit workers on unpaid trials are laughable. 

"Given that over 10,000 people, many who have experienced these exploitative unpaid shifts, signed a petition calling for a ban on unpaid trials and the horror stories I continue to hear from people being asked to work hours for free, we know those claims from the Government are not true.

"As we begin to look to ease restrictions and open up the economy, it is absolutely vital that the UK government puts workers and secure employment at the heart of the recovery. The culture of unpaid work remains a scourge on society and the UK government must act to end it.

"I am still of the view that we need to tighten current legislation, and I urge the UK government to heed the warnings and do the right thing before more people are exploited through unpaid work trials

"If Westminster refuses to act, then it must devolve the powers to the Scottish Parliament so an SNP Government can get on with the job to end this unjust practice."

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Bryan Simpson of Unite Hospitality said: "If, as the Government claim, there are 'robust enforcement actions' in place to prevent exploitation through unpaid work trials then why are we still getting reports of workers being made to work up to 10 hours without pay, with no chance of employment at the end and in many cases to cover the absence of employees. 

"As the hospitality industry opens back-up, we will inevitably see a sharp increase in the use of unpaid trial shifts by employers wishing to save money on labour costs.

"If the Government is serious about supporting workers to return to work post-Covid, then they should start by removing the loop-holes which allow employers to take advantage of free labour."