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Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Peacocks exposed: Apply for a job – get workfare!

Posted: February 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Name and shame, Personal accounts | 13 Comments »
group of protesters outside peacocks

Hundreds of leaflets were given out and there was a great response from passers-by to the demos on 1st March!

Another high street chain has now been exposed as using workfare: Peacocks have taken on workfare placements instead of hiring staff. 

Two stores faced protests on 1 March and their Facebook moderators have been very busy deleting people’s messages for days now. London Boycott Workfare invites other groups to pay a visit to your local store too and put the pressure on for Peacocks to pay its staff! Download our leaflet template here.

This person’s story shows how this practice means job applications are ignored when free labour is on offer instead. Another report has come in that the Sutton store has 10 workfare placements at one time. Please find out what’s going on at your local store too and let us know!

Can’t make it to a store in person?

Peacocks’ code of conduct claims: “Employment is Freely Chosen. There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour. This includes forced labour due to peer pressure…”

Let Peacocks know what you think about their use of workfare on their social media channels:
Facebook | Or via their website |

Or contact the company which owns them – Edinburgh Woollen Mill:
On Facebook |

I started claiming in last August, and since then have been sent on several work placements.

In December of last year I had an interview for Christmas temp work at Asda (though in the end I didn’t undertake it). One of the interviewees was someone who had been on a work placement there. At the start of the placements, people are told they will take you on a temporary contract after completing the placement, but this person had to go through the same process as everyone else.

In December I also undertook a work placement within a local Holiday Inn branch that was tied into a ‘Sector Based Work Academy’ I was referred onto and that was organised by a local college and I believe jobcentre supported. They have also now however been placed onto the ‘work experience’ list available from my jobcentre.

A few months later, I was asked to put my name down for work experience again. Our local branch of Peacocks hadn’t long reopened. They had been advertising vacancies for some time and so within the first week of the shop being open I had put my CV into the store for consideration.

It wasn’t very long after filling in the paperwork for the store that I was given a call to arrange my placement. Initially I was given three days a week. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. But then when I came in for my first day I was told that I had the Friday as well.

This pushed my total time within the store to 32 hours. Barring the two managers and one high level supervisor no one else in the store worked anywhere close to those hours. I was also initially asked to come in from 9.30-5.30 but then this was changed to 9am.

I had been told that Peacocks was hiring however there were no more vacancies mentioned. I was on there with two other people and often there wasn’t really enough work for all three of us to do. Most of my time on the shop floor was spent tidying stock and on delivery days sorting deliveries. I was given no other tasks or any training that would be beneficial such as using the tills.

During conversations I found out the manager never looked at CVs that had been handed into the store.

I have been undertaking a training course with a local company. A week after I had finished my placement and went back I found out one of the other people taking training at this place had been taken into this placement as well.

Instead of offering paid work to people, they seem to be able to staff their stores with a constant flow of work placements. Meanwhile, despite having applied to the store for a job as soon as it opened, I ended up working longer hours than staff for no pay. If companies can keep getting staff and not paying them, how are people like me ever meant to find paid work?


13 Comments on “Peacocks exposed: Apply for a job – get workfare!”

  1. 1 Steven said at 4:51 pm on February 23rd, 2014:

    What a complete DISCRACE! This shows that even Right-wing people in favour of free markets should be opposed to workfare and the reason why is that is a MASSIVE DISTORTION of the free market. The government has provided private, profit-making companies with a PERVERSE ECONOMIC INCENTIVE to NOT HIRE people!

    It’s the economics of the lunatic asylum!

  2. 2 Ian Johnson said at 5:21 pm on February 24th, 2014:

    Smacks of slave labour. This government has a lot to answer for.

  3. 3 Marie hitchen said at 2:02 pm on February 26th, 2014:

    my daughter will be leaving school in june what hope is she going to have getting a job when peacocks use slave labour because that is what is and you know it and its disgraceful .i was a regular shopperthere for my family almost weekly but will boycott your stores while you use workfare .

  4. 4 Isabel Addie said at 6:14 pm on February 26th, 2014:

    This is slave labour, is it not illegal for employers to so this, they should be ashamed of themselves exploiting people for profit Shame on Peacocks

  5. 5 nic said at 8:54 pm on February 26th, 2014:

    work placements are a good Idea to get experience i work in the welfare to work sector, previously a lone parent I had to get work to survive so why dont other people,benefits are meant as a safety net not a way of life, no one is entitled to it, as i seem to hear on a daily basis, I pay my taxes to support people who really dont feel they should work, i am gonna have to work full time until i am 67 and wont get any extras chucked in!

  6. 6 Paul said at 10:00 pm on February 26th, 2014:

    Peacocks is owned by EWM Group which is in turn owned by the multi-millionaire Phillip Day. Phillip Day is clearly not averse to exploiting workers not just in the UK but globally.

    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/edinburgh-woollen-mills-multi-millionaire-boss-2319295

    Whilst employing workers on workfare the EWM group have managed to increase their profits from £20m to £56m. They were quoted in the Telegraph in December to be creating 1100 new jobs over the next 18 months. Pretty easy thing to do – if you fail to pay for your employees.

  7. 7 ann arky said at 10:39 am on February 27th, 2014:

    It is the shape of things to come, it is the Western corporate world’s dream come true, it will allow them to compete with the Eastern sweatshops. What more could could a company ask for than free labour. Austerity was the door through which they introduced sweatshop Europe. It is zero hours contracts or slave labour, take your choice. Ah, the wonders of capitalism.

  8. 8 Dame Kitty Carryall said at 3:49 pm on February 27th, 2014:

    Peacocks appear to have now disabled comments on their Facebook page, so if you wish to make your feelings about their use of Workfare, you can cut and paste the following link into your browser and contact them via their official website:
    http://www.peacocks.co.uk/contact/

  9. 9 Kat said at 8:46 pm on February 28th, 2014:

    Nic – the entire point is people are TRYING to get work, and cannot BECAUSE of systems like this. I have to ask if you even read the article, because the point is made there repeatedly.

    Also – the “work experience” placements do not teach jobseekers any transferable skills like cash handling because, to be blunt, the “employers” are given the impression that the Workfare staff cannot be trusted.

  10. 10 AliveAndFree said at 11:00 pm on February 28th, 2014:

    Comments seem to be back up for their FB page. Go to town boys and girls, go to town.

  11. 11 enigma said at 8:18 pm on March 1st, 2014:

    Wickes DIY stores will be taking on the unemployed as workfare in their stores in April, they will be making it public at that time, confirmed by a store manager in Littlehampton, W Sussex.

  12. 12 enigma said at 9:26 pm on March 1st, 2014:

    Wickes under the name travisperkins.co.uk, as other firms under that name. they are interviewing now for supposedly minimum wage, however, they are using the interview process to find suitable people for April, they will be in touch with the job centres to use those they have interviewed.

  13. 13 enigma said at 4:54 pm on March 3rd, 2014:

    Of course people on workfare will not be trusted, but (as from my previous message on here) companies are advertising available positions which state they are paying the minimum wage, but remember what is arriving in April, the companies are interviewing potential workers sorry “slaves”, these days of course you need to take all your ID to prove you can work in UK, after you’ve had your interview you will receive an email or letter stating that you were unsuccessful for that position, in April the manager who interviewed you, (still has copies of your ID, he or she then gets in touch with the job centre to use those who are suitable, not forgetting, “trustworthy” instead of the jobcentre staff sending just anyone to their company.

    It is obvious that those on workfare will not be smiling, why should they.


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