Trial shifts: to pay or not to pay?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th July 2017

Should chefs be paid for doing a trial shift? The Staff Canteen finds out what you think.

Last week chef Mark Greenaway came under fire for not paying job applicants for trial shifts at his eponymous restaurant, Restaurant Mark Greenaway, based in Edinburgh, which holds three rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide.

His decision to not pay potential candidates for a two to four hour trial shift hit the headlines when The Times published an article that said the Glaswegian union group, Better Than Zero - which champions employee rights - were told by past and present staff of the chef that he was “using dozens of unpaid trial shifts per week to cover busy periods and [using] desperate young workers as a free cleaning service”.

The Times reported that the debate surrounding the issue arose after the MP for Glasgow South, Stewart McDonald lodged a private members’ bill last week at the House of Commons to ban unpaid shift work.

Mark Greenaway
Mark Greenaway

>>> Read the original article published by The Times about Mark Greenaway defending his decision to not pay for trial shifts 

Mark Greenaway defends trial shifts in open letter on Facebook

After the news broke Mark took to social media to defend himself by penning an open letter on Facebook. In the post, he reassures that if the candidate is successful in securing the position they do get paid for the trial before further explaining why he chooses not to pay for the shifts. A main reason being to determine whether they are right for the job before signing a contract.

In the post Mark wrote: “This is as much for the candidate to look at us and decide if they want the relevant position and become part of our team, as it is for us to look at them, I also feel and the whole industry feel this is fair.”

He also explained that if he paid for every interviewee’s trial the cost of paperwork would outweigh the two hour stint they were initially asked to undertake.

His post, which garnered 247 comments before we published this article, received overwhelming praise from his peers who whole heartedly agreed with the ‘standard industry practice’ and didn’t feel the need for the chef to have to justify his actions.

What The Staff Canteen followers had to say

Is a trial shift for chefs the equivalent of an interview in other industries? Or is it free labour which can help you out if you are short of staff? We took to social media to see what our followers thought about having people come in for unpaid trial shifts before offering them a permanent position.

But while most commended his actions on his original post we received a mixed reception when we shared The Times' piece on Facebook asking for your opinions.

It appears that most of the back lash has come from hospitality workers feeling it is unfair to get people in for trial shifts to help out during busier periods, regardless as to whether or not they are being paid.

Especially when the younger generation of chefs are finding it difficult to live on the starting wage.

Renowned chef, Pierre Koffmann, who celebrates 50 years in the industry this year, recently spoke out about this saying that young chefs find it ‘impossible’ to live off their wage in London and compared it to ‘living in poverty’.

But for those who read his original post, Mark made it clear how he felt about those thinking he was taking advantage and why he thought it was unfair to be singled out for something that is largely considered ‘legal’ in the cheffing community.

He said: “We do not and never have done this to get free labour or to fill a labour gap.”

    He continued: “What I will always do is defend not only my restaurant, my team and lastly my reputation as an employer…”

    Many agreed and revealed how they would not have the career they have today if it wasn't for taking up unpaid trial shifts in kitchens.

      Do you agree with Mark? Please let us know your thoughts on unpaid trial shifts in the comments box or head over to our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @canteentweets

      By Michael Parker

      @canteenparker

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      The  Staff Canteen

      The Staff Canteen

      Editor 25th July 2017

      Trial shifts: to pay or not to pay?