Types of work including unpaid trials

Full-time work

Full-time work requires employees to work 38 hours per week and receive wages and other employment conditions identified in your award or agreement.

Full-time employees must receive paid annual leave and paid personal carer's leave (sick leave).

Full-time employees may be paid allowances for doing certain tasks, overtime pay for working outside regular hours or penalty rates for working nights, weekends or public holidays. 

For more information regarding award rates of pay, contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The benefits of working full-time

Some of the benefits of full-time employment include:

  • access to paid leave (personal carer's leave, holiday etc.)
  • a guarantee of regular and rostered weekly hours that should not be altered without notice
  • a guarantee of weekly earnings that allows for budgeting and access to loans from financial institutions
  • access to minimum notice requirements for termination, redundancy, change of rostered hours etc.

Part-time work

Part-time employees work a regular number of hours each week, although less than full-time employees.

Part-time employees generally receive the flat hourly equivalent of the normal full-time rate and all, or most, of the benefits of a full-time employee - but on a proportional or 'pro-rata' basis.

'Pro-rata' entitlements

  • Annual leave – a part-time employee still receives four weeks annual leave per year but it is paid based on their part-time weekly wage
  • Annual leave on termination of employment – if a part-time employee stops working in a job and has not taken all their annual leave or has not completed a full 12 months of employment, they are due a proportionate amount of annual leave when finishing
  • Personal Carer's leave - a part-time employee will receive Personal Carer's leave (sick leave) leave entitlements on a proportional basis (e.g. if the employee works 3 days a week they will receive 3/5 of the full-time sick leave entitlement).

The benefits of working part-time

Some of the benefits of part-time employment include:

  • access to paid leave (personal carer's leave, annual etc.) within pre-determined minimum entitlements
  • a guarantee of regular and rostered weekly hours that should not be altered without notice
  • a guarantee of weekly earnings that allow for budgeting and access to loans from financial institutions
  • access to minimum notice requirements for termination, redundancy, change of rostered hours etc.

Casual work

Casual jobs are normally paid on an hourly or daily rate.

As well as offering flexibility, casual work also usually pays a higher hourly rate because you receive an extra payment or loading on top of the basic hourly rate. This is to make up for not receiving the other benefits paid to permanent workers, such as personal carer's leave (sick leave).

Casuals employees working under certain awards must be paid a minimum number of hours a day. This is called a minimum engagement. Your boss can not pay you for fewer hours that this minimum.

Disadvantages of casual employment 

While casual workers do get flexibility and normally an extra loading on the basic rate of pay, there are some disadvantages to casual work that you should be aware of.

Generally, as a casual worker you won't have:

  • access to paid personal carer's leave (sick leave), public holidays or annual leave.
  • a guarantee of regular hours to be worked
  • a requirement to be given a roster or to receive notice of roster changes
  • the guarantee of a regular income - so it can be difficult to budget and this can limit your access to arranging personal finance and a loan or taking a holiday
  • any notice of termination period or access to redundancy entitlements
  • limited access to on-the-job training, career development and workplace information.

Unpaid trial work

Most job offers are made after an interview.

When offered a job you may be asked to work for a trial or probation period. This is so that you and your employer can see if you can do the job and that you get along. Your employer must tell you how long the probation or trial period will be (it can only be for a maximum of three months). 

You must be paid for any training your employer requires you to do and they must pay for the cost of the training course. You must receive payment for any work you do.

Short work trial

An employer may get you to complete a short work trial.  This could be because they want to have an opportunity to see how more than one applicant fits in with their business.

This is a valid arrangement but they must pay everyone who completes the short work trial.

While you are completing this short work trial, you should be employed as a casual and you must be paid for a specific number of hours of work, known as the 'minimum engagement'.  This can range from 1.5 to 4 hours depending on the award that applies to the job you are doing.

*Being asked to demonstrate your ability to do a job during or after an interview may not be deemed paid work. For example being asked to make a latte when applying for a barista role is not paid work.

Unpaid trial work is illegal

There is no such thing as 'unpaid trial work'. It is illegal for your employer not to pay you for any work that you do, even if it is only for a small number of hours (see minimum engagement above).

Contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 and let them know if this happens to you.

If you do not receive payment for the work trial, Fair Work can take steps to recover the payment from the employer.  However, it is important that you obtain some evidence of your unpaid work trial - this could be:

  • a copy of the advertisement (print or electronic) for the job
  • any correspondence (written or electronic) that you have received from the business about your appointment for trial work
  • names and phone numbers of witnesses who would be able to confirm that you were at the workplace at the time and date indicated. (This could be someone from another business who you may have had contact with during the trial work period)
  • photographic evidence.
  • diary record of the trial work.

Unpaid trial work should not be confused with unpaid school work experience programs.

Handy tip

If you don't get anything in writing from a potential employer confirming they have asked you to complete a short work trial, send them a letter, email or text message stating your acceptance to work the trial and set out the arrangements - date you will do the trial, start and finish time.  This can be used to support any claim for wages you may make later if you don't get paid!

More information on award rates and conditions

To check the rates and conditions of awards contact Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94.