A new ‘gold standard’ accreditation scheme for ethical employers could be coming to Reading, after councillors approved a motion to tackle unpaid trial shifts.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) officers will look into the scheme, which would reward employers that engage ethical recruitment practices, including a commitment to paying people during any trial period.

Conservative councillors abstained, believing education of jobseekers and employers to be a better idea.

Labour councillor Ellie Emberson described her own experience of participating in unpaid trial shifts.

She said: “Two of them only can be described as an absolute sham.

“I worked eight hours for a company and at the very end I was told I had been unsuccessful. I saw a whiteboard on the wall with a rota with many names, with mine crossed off.

“Every hour of every day, they were using someone for a trial shift. What concerns me is that my story is not unique.”

She also criticised the Conservative councillors for abstaining, adding: “I’m really disappointed that they won’t do anything on this. Why put the onus on someone seeking a job?”

Unite the Union has reported a six-fold increase in complaints related to unpaid trial shifts in the UK.

Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward, who tabled the motion, said there is an 'imbalance of power' and 'the situation has got much worse recently'

Conservative councillor Simon Robinson said poor and unethical recruitment practices ‘are not the norm’ and a better solution would be to educate employees on their rights and employers on their responsibilities.

He added: “I find it difficult to understand what benefit could come from such a scheme.

“There would undoubtedly be a cost implication in managing and administrating such an initiative.”

Councillor Sarah-Jane Hacker attacked the Conservative councillor’s response.

She said: “When you’ve got no money for heating or food and you’ve got to buy your kids a pair of shoes, you’re more interested in getting a job regardless of what the unscrupulous employers do.

“You need to understand what everyday workers are going through. You have just shown that you really don’t know what’s going on in Reading.”

Liberal Democrats councillor Meri O’Connell added: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting: taking people’s time, making them work for nothing. I think it accounts for little more than theft, whether it’s a week or three hours.”