Trial Shifts

Trial shifts are supposed to be a probationary period for the employer to make sure that the prospective employee(s) are capable of doing the work – ie they haven’t lied on their CVs. However, in bartending (I can’t speak for other professions, but I’m sure it happens often across the board) employers seem to treat them as auditions instead.

Here’s the problem – each time I’ve gone for a trial shift at a new bar; there have been four or five people all trialing for one available position, which means that it’s not enough to show that you are capable, you have to outperform everyone else as well. Now this would be fine for a venue where performance is key, ie a top cocktail bar, or a place like TGI Friday’s where acting and performance are as much part of the job as serving, but to work in a standard bar or a pub it seems a little ridiculous.

I can understand why employers would want to have more than one trial for one position; the potential employee could be lying, incapable, or accept a different job (if you’re looking for work, you’re probably applying for more than one), but that’s quite unfair on the employees, especially if it’s a long trial and especially if it’s busy. I’ve had a few trials for bars where it’s been expedient for them to have someone come in and do a few hours worth of unpaid work, and not have to hire them at the end.

I’ve also had trials where at the end, I’ve been told I don’t have enough experience, which winds me up something chronic as the employer only needed to have looked at my CV to decide that, and didn’t need to waste my time.

To undertake a trial shift, a prospective employee can’t work or do any other trial shifts on the day in question (as it will usually clash), and if an employee has a busy week lined up, will probably not want to apply for more jobs until having gone through it. They will also, if they’re worth their salt, need to spend some time doing research into the kind of atmosphere and products the bar sells. So there’s an imbalance of power here, when the employer can pick their favourite (usually someone similar to them, or someone they know, or often the prettiest girl) from a selection of five and the amount of time and effort put in by the employee is undermined.

I have a solution for this, to make it a level playing field. It should be made into law that trial shifts are paid cash in hand at the end of the trial. It doesn’t have to be as much as minimum wage, but it at least rewards the employee for the time they’ve put in if they don’t get the job.

It will also prevent the employer from getting too many people in for trials and making them too long. They can select the best two or three from CVs and interviews, people they’re fairly sure about, and decide then. Now, that will result in people applying for jobs getting fewer trials; but the ones they do get are at least paid, and far more likely to lead to a job afterwards. It takes the pressure off the employee and forces the employer to be more responsible.

The featured image at the top is of a bar I used to work in, The Thirsty Scholar. They are the only place I’ve applied for that’s been fair with their trials, used them as training rather than an audition. Take a leaf out of their book, employers!


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