Top retailers scooping unpaid workers from heaving UK dole heap
Some of Britain’s biggest high street names are winning the battle against the economic downturn by bolstering their staff levels with young, unpaid jobseekers. Tesco, Poundland, Argos and Sainsbury’s are among those that are taking advantage of the scheme, which is part of the government’s work experience programme.
A report in The Guardian has revealed that young job-hunters are being given placements of as long as two months in length at the stores with no pay, as they are exempt from minimum wage laws for up to eight weeks. Following a one-week ‘cooling off’ period, they are expected to work, unpaid, for the remainder of the placement, or risk losing their benefits.
But there seems to be some confusion, with some retailers saying that they believed the scheme was entirely voluntary and that slaves, sorry, placement workers were free to leave at any time. Similarly, some of the ‘volunteers’ have said that they weren’t informed about the cooling-off period and have found themselves working as shelf-stackers and shop-tidiers for 30 hours a week for nothing more than their £53 Jobseeker’s Allowance.
21-year-old James Rayburn has just spent seven weeks slogging his guts out for nothing in his local Tesco. He told The Guardian: “I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that's what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that. I was there doing it as if I walked into the store and said, 'Look I'll help.'"
Employment minister Chris Grayling has defended the scheme, saying: "Our work experience scheme is proving to be a big success with over half of young people leaving benefits after they have completed their placement. It is not mandatory but once someone agrees to take part we expect them to turn up or they will have their benefits stopped.”
So then Bitterwalleteers, is this just a case of large, profit-making stores taking advantage of people and using them as unpaid help or is it a good thing that job-hunters are being handed an opportunity to get out of bed in the mornings, even if they’re getting no remuneration for their efforts? Should we bring back hanging?
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