In a recent case the Employment Relations Authority ordered an employer to pay $9,000 to a woman who worked for one day as a trial period, without pay.

Following an interview, the woman was invited to undergo a trial period. However, after completing the work she was told that all of her work was part of an unpaid trial. The employer said that it did not consider her an employee as she had only completed one day of work, and that they did not pay for people to undertake trial days.

The ERA considered the woman to be an employee, even though the parties had not yet signed an employment agreement. The woman was awarded $9,000 which included payment of a four week notice period.

Employers may ask prospective employees to undertake a workplace trial. However, if an employee undertakes a full day’s work, or contributes to the commercial activities of the business, then he or she may be considered an employee, regardless of whether or not the parties have signed an employment agreement or have reached an agreement about performing an unpaid work trial.

Ben Ruback

Employment Lawyer

Wellington