Just over a year since the Conservatives boldly declared that "austerity is over", there is still little evidence to suggest that people are bearing any benefits of such a claim.
This may well have made good headlines but, for people across these islands, it remains meaningless and – in one particular case –falls apart in practice -unpaid work trials.
This unfair practice remains a blight on our employment sector and is exploitative to workers – particularly young people, students and migrants. If people are going to be offered a trial period where they apply their skills in the hope of securing work then they should be paid fairly and properly.
It has been nearly two years since I introduced a Bill to Parliament to outlaw the practice of unpaid work trials, which was also supported by employers, universities, trade unions, legal experts and colleagues from all political parties, and would’ve changed lives for millions of workers.
Unfortunately, the Government talked out my Bill, but I have kept campaigning on this issue and it will not go away.
Two years on from the Bill, unpaid work trials are still a scourge on our society.
I welcome the fact that the UK Government did publish guidance on unpaid work trials, but it is too vague and does not go far enough in protecting vulnerable workers. People are still losing out on wages because the law is incredibly grey, and the public, quite rightly, expect action to address this.
A poll carried out by YouGov showed that two-thirds of the public are against the use of unpaid work trials, which shows this is an issue the public feel strongly about.
More so, a study, Unpaid Britain (November 2017), by Middlesex University and the Trust for London, also estimated that workers are missing out on £3billion in wages with the "episodic" theft of unpaid trial shifts contributing towards this.
We should all be doing what we can to combat this exploitative and outdated practice.
My Bill was an opportunity to end such unfair practices, and ensure people have the financial, job and household security they deserve. But the fact the Government talked out the Bill, and their current unwillingness to engage with me on the issue, has showed their true attitude to fair work.
The only way to address this is for measures to be taken to ban this dated practice.
The Budget is therefore an ideal chance to do so. The Chancellor could do this by supporting a ban on unpaid trials, alongside further investment and support for preventative measures, such as giving HMRC the powers to penalise all companies that advertise unpaid work trials and ensuring workers who have been asked to complete unpaid trials are all paid back for the work they have done.
The culture of unpaid work is a scourge on society and the UK Government must show at least some willingness to tackle this exploitative practice.
If the age of austerity is truly over, this Government must actually help those who have struggled the most over the past decade, which means ensuring those seeking a job never have to worry about exploitation or loss of wages ever again.