Unpaid Work Experience at Tesco

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) scheme (which has been going since last summer) allows companies to take on unemployed young people without paying them. Under the scheme young people do not qualify for the minimum wage and are subject to the Sector Based Work Academies (SBWA) run by the DWP. These jobs are advertised on the job centre plus website paying job seekers allowance + expenses.

While I find the average unpaid work placement quite unethical, having done about 8 of them myself. It seems even more frustrating if the skills taken from that experience are so basic that they should have really given you the job in a matter of hours. I’m not saying those skills are not necessary or not valuable, but having done a trial shift in a pub or a shop I would expect to be fit for the job in the first few hours. Several weeks of working at ASDA, Tesco, Poundland or Sainsbury’s for free seems excessive in terms of ‘training’ people. The most offensive part of the DWP scheme is that these placements are paid for by the tax payer at no cost to the employer. The Job Centre pays for any expenses and the participants remain on Job Seekers allowance throughout the placement, so no cost to the employer at all.

“Participants will remain on benefit throughout the period of the sector-based work academy and Jobcentre Plus will pay any travel and childcare costs whilst they are on the work experience placement. There is no direct cost to an employer for sector-based work academies as the costs are covered by government funding.”

This could be valuable, if the skills the participants were learning were equal to that on a vocational or academic course. However the scheme seems to simply allow big companies to take advantage of a saturated job market (as they are anyway) and profit from free labour. Essentially the government is funding large companies to not pay their employees. How does this affect the permanent employees? How does this affect the self worth of those receiving 53 pounds to work 30 hours a week between 9am and 10pm? How does this make any sense at all?

“A work experience placement in your business will enable participants to develop their skills and have the opportunity to work in a real environment… it provides invaluable benefits for both businesses and individuals participating…The key principle to supporting participants during the placement should be to treat them as regular employees as far as possible whilst they remain on benefits”

If these were apprenticeships I would understand the value of learning new skills, however it just appears to be exploiting unemployed young people, who are already in a difficult position. Tax payers money could be used to help young people start up their own businesses and create more jobs, not to subsidise multinationals who are clearly taking advantage of the scheme.

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