Young People Working for Free

Many young people in Sweden work for free in summer jobs during so-called trial periods, according to the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO).

The number of calls to a special help line, run by LO, has increased by 60 percent so far this year.

Although the practice is illegal, many young people – particularly in the hotel and restaurant business - are told that they have to work for a few days for free before they will be taken on for the summer.

In the worst cases those days stretch to weeks, says Sandra Viktor, a youth worker at the trade union organization.

“We helped one girl who worked in a pizzeria where she was given a trial day without pay. When she later asked if she should come in the next day, the employer said ‘yes, yes, sure come in’. And she ended up working for two weeks without getting paid a cent.”

In that case the trade unions forced the pizzeria to pay up.

But, according the Sandra Viktor, some unscrupulous employers systematically trick young people into working for free trial periods, using them as free labour for weeks on end.

She says the only way to ensure it doesn’t happen is for summer workers to insist on a contract from day one.

But that may be easier said that done - with the national unemployment rate close to nine percent there is tough competition for jobs.

“It’s become a kind of employers’ market, " says Sandra Viktor.

"They know that many young people are queuing up for jobs.”