Can an employer ask candidates to work for free?

Question: As a way to improve our hiring process, we want to include a return interview where the considered applicant would visit our company to see the job and work on it for two to four hours. This way, the applicant can have a good understanding of the position they are being hired for. However, the company would not pay the applicant. Is this legal to do?”

Answer: There is no problem with having an applicant return for a second interview in order to see how the job works and what is entailed in fulfilling the position. But you can’t require the applicant to actually work in the position for any period of time without paying him his minimum entitlements to wages under applicable provincial employment standards legislation.

An acceptable way of improving your hiring process along these lines would simply be to have the applicant come in and observe another employee performing the job and allow the prospective candidate to ask any questions about how the job is performed and what it entails at this time.

You should also ensure it is made clear to the applicant that this is simply part of your interviewing process and does not constitute an offer of employment. It is important the applicant not mistake this part of your hiring process as an orientation for the position.

Peter Israel is the head of Goodman and Carr LLP’s Human Resource Management Group. He can be reached at (416) 595-2323 or [email protected].

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