Facing workfare on one of these schemes? Know your rights!
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Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) is a 4 week 30 hour compulsory work placement (or 75% of time you are available for work) for people the job centre decides are:
“lacking, or failing to demonstrate, the focus and discipline that is necessary to effectively: seek out and pursue job opportunities [or] secure and retain employment” (MWA Guidance, point 15).
They must give a reason and explain to you why you are being referred to MWA. Any reason should fit the above criteria in italic. Alternatively, if you have not taken part in something work experience-related recently (the Work Experience scheme, volunteering, etc.), then they can refer you to MWA by giving the reason that a “lack of recent work experience is proving to be a barrier to finding work” and that you are “unwilling to address a lack of recent work experience” (MWA Guidance points 22-23).
But, if any of these below points apply to you, you are not eligible for MWA and you should challenge any referral:
- you are currently working (paid or voluntary)
- you are undertaking employment related study / training
- you are taking part in or recently completed another “employment measure”
- you are being referred because your advisor thinks you haven’t been meeting your jobseeker’s agreement.
These are found in the MWA guidance, points 18-21.
MWA is 4 weeks, if you cannot complete all 4 weeks due to jury service or holiday arrangements (or perhaps likelihood of starting job) etc, then it should be deferred. Also if you are to start the work programme in the next 6 weeks then you should not be referred to MWA.
Your “suitability” for MWA should be identified through a “work targeted interview process”, which can be supported by the use of the Customer Assessment Tool (CAT). You are free to be selective in what and how you answer, or just decline to complete this and other (eg. Looking for Work Form) assessments.
“the customer must consent to the adviser using the CAT” Source: CAT guidance July 2012
“LFW1 is intended to be helpful and inform the interview, but completion is not mandatory.” Source: FOI Dec 2011
Here is a template of a letter to give to your advisor to remove consent for these assessments to take place, which makes it more difficult for them to justify sending you on MWA:
Dear Jobcentre Adviser,
RE: Customer Assessment Tool (CAT) and other assessments
Can you please place a note on my clerical and LMS or other computer records that I do not consent ever, for CAT or any other consent based assessment technique to be used and or recorded onto any electronic medium, such as LMS or clerically.
Please make or transcribe an exact copy of this letter onto my electronic and clerical (paper) Jobcentre Plus records.
If you cannot get out of your referral to MWA then restricting the use of your details will possibly slow down your placement.
Note: You can be referred to MWA for dropping out of an employment measure (eg. Work Experience) or if you have recently received a “labour market related sanction” of your benefits – see points 17 and 19 of the MWA Guidance.
The Work Experience scheme
The Work Experience scheme involves 2-8 week work placements of 25-30 hours and is aimed at 18-24 yr olds.
“Entry onto the scheme is voluntary and individuals may leave the work scheme when they want” Source: Parliamentary library July 2012
The threat of sanctions remains for those dismissed by the employers due to “gross misconduct”. The DWP say “’Gross Misconduct’ might include, for example, theft, racial abuse and violence.” Source: FOI March 2012
Many people are given the impression that they must do the Work Experience scheme or face sanctions. This is not the case: you do not have to agree to do it and you can leave without facing direct sanctions.
Beware that if you don’t have recent work experience, and do not consider
volunteering, the Work Experience scheme or any other way of gaining work experience, you may be referred to Manadatory Work Activity (MWA).
Sector-based Work Academies
These are 6 weeks long and involve both “pre-employment training” as well as a work experience placement.
“Although taking part in an academy is voluntary, once a claimant has agreed to participate, the process must be completed, or the claimant’s benefits may be subject to sanctions” Source: Parliamentary library July 2012
Avoid being threatened with Mandatory Work Activity if you drop out – do not start these schemes
Starting and then dropping out of either work scheme gives the Job Centre the right to send you on Mandatory Work Activity (MWA). This is even the case for work experience, when officially you cannot be sanctioned. Source: pt 18 of MWA provider guidance
Due to possible sanctions, or subsequent MWA referrals, if you decide to stop the placements or academies - it is best to use your rights to not start a work experience placement or SBWA. If you want to do work experience, do it outside the control of the job centre.
We have found that people have been referred to MWA for refusing a work experience placement. This should not happen, see MWA guidance.
Not all ‘work experience’ is mandatory
Don’t believe what they tell you: if you have not received a written mandatory activity notification, you can leave work experience at any time. If your placement is not for “community benefit” it is almost certainly not mandatory.
Work Programme providers like to imply that you risk sanctions, but if you have not received a Mandatory Activity Notification in writing, then you will not be sanctioned for leaving:
“participants can leave without sanction consequences” (point 9, Provider guidance)
“…only if the participant loses their work experience on a voluntary basis due to his/her gross misconduct that a sanction may be imposed.” (point 3, Provider guidance)
Your provider may mandate you to “maintain basic standards of good behaviour” but it remains the case that you will only be sanctioned if you have committed gross misconduct. See point 27 of this provider guidance for an indicative list of what constitutes gross misconduct.
Note: Volunteering or work experience you have arranged yourself of your own free will may be subject to sanctions for gross misconduct if it is recorded on your action plan.
Community Benefit Mandatory Work Placements
From 3rd December 2012, these placements will apply to people claiming ESA as well as those on JSA.
Is it mandatory?
“Community Benefit” placements are not necessarily mandatory, as they can be arranged under the same guidelines as voluntary work experience (see point 50). Find out if your placement is mandatory.
Providers have to do the following to make an action mandatory (and sanctionable):
“issue a separate MAN [Mandatory Activity Notification] for each activity and it must be clear on the notification that the activity is mandatory.” (point 10, guidance on mandation)
“It is a requirement that any change to what is required is notified on a new MAN to the participant so that it is specific to the new activity. It is also important to issue it in good time.” (point 11, guidance on mandation)
Mandatory Activity Notifications (MANs) must be in writing (not simply via text or email alone), and specify particular information. Check whether an MAN you have received meets the criteria in point 4 here.
Room to negotiate?
It is down to your provider whether or not they make the placement mandatory (and therefore if it carries the threat of sanctions if you do not take part). You may have strategies to persuade them not to!
The government tells your provider: “It is your decision whether to mandate the JSA participant or not to a work placement.” (point 49, Provider guidance)
Lots of the details of Community Benefit mandatory placements must be decided by the provider according to a set of guidelines. You may like to challenge whether it meets the guidelines which state:
There are no minimum or maximum periods for unpaid work experience or unpaid community benefit work placements; however, any activity to which a claimant is mandated must be reasonable in their circumstances.. (point 54, Provider guidance)
Before arranging a work placement, you should check whether the participant has any agreed restrictions on the type of work/hours or times of work that they can do; as they will need to be flexible to reflect individual’s circumstances. (point 43, Provider guidance)
Consideration should also be given to any health condition or disability and any reasonable adjustments to ensure the suitability of the placement. (point 44, Provider guidance)
A community benefit work placement must be of benefit to the community over and above the benefit of providing a placement to the individual. You should be able to clearly describe to DWP the community benefit(s) the placement is delivering. (point 45, Provider guidance)
Fact: Not all ‘work experience’ on the Work Programme is mandatory.
Fact: The only personal data you need to share with a Work Programme provider (such as A4e) is your referral letter and signing on book.
Fact: You don’t have to sign any Work Programme provider documents or forms.
Fact: Your CV is personal data and you don’t have to give them a copy to keep.
Fact: A written Mandatory Activity Notification must be given if they want to make anything sanctionable or to keep or see personal info they do not already hold.
Fact: The Job Centre can postpone starting the Work Programme for 90 days if you have a job interview, or are expecting to work soon.
Fact: If you are on another Job Centre scheme, pregnant or a survivor of domestic violence you do not have to do the Work Programme.
More information on the other schemes coming soon.