Avoid forced unpaid labour

Download a leaflet to help let people know their rights!

Note: As a result of our campaign ‘sanctions’ for leaving unpaid work placements on the Work Programme, Work Experience, and Sector-based Work Academies have been temporarily suspended. We understand that people are often still given the impression that leaving the schemes risks benefit sanction, so it may be useful to print a copy of the DWP response if you are trying to challenge a referral.

1. Don’t volunteer for “Work experience”!
Once you volunteer for job centre ‘work experience’ it becomes mandatory. Then if you stop doing this work experience, your benefits can be stopped. Although the government appears to have made some concessions regarding the Work Experience scheme, there are still sanctions – both direct and indirect – that you may face. The government has not made clear how its concessions will play out – so the best thing to do is try to avoid the Work Experience scheme. The CAB is still advising people that it is a compulsory scheme.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • Do not agree to volunteer for the job centre’s “work experience”: It quickly becomes forced unpaid labour.
  • If you want to do work experience, find something that is really voluntary.
  • If you are sent on the scheme, you must turn up on the first day- but you do not face sanctions if you leave within the first week (unless this is due to misconduct).

2. Avoid Mandatory Work Activity!
We have seen people referred for ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ simply because they have challenged their advisor. But there are strict guidelines for who can be referred. You can use the job centre internal guidance below to challenge referral! You do not have to go on this scheme if:

  • 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”
  • the reason given is you have a lack of recent work experience
  • you are being referred because your advisor thinks you haven’t been meeting your jobseeker’s agreement.

Have a read of this post for more detail on updated MWA guidelines.

3. Also, watch out for the “Work Programme”
Multi-million pound companies like A4E profit from making lives miserable on the Work Programme.

Know your rights! Did you know that the only personal data you need to share with a work programme provider are 1) your referral letter and 2) signing on book?

Fact: You do not need to give them bank details, passport, driving licence or utility bills.
Fact: You do not need to share personal information with them.
Fact: Did you know 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: You do not have to sign any Work Programme Provider documents or forms. (See reference to not needing signatures here).

Did you know that if you are on another job centre scheme, pregnant or a survivor of domestic violence you do not have to do the Work Programme?

Visit the website for more info on your rights on the Work Programme.

Workfare is wrong, and it’s up to all of us stop it. Remember, you are not alone. That’s why Boycott Workfare was formed by people like you. So help yourself and get involved!

To see this information in the DWP’s own words, click here and here.

Check out this video which sets out some of your rights on the Work Programme.


Comments (14)

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Big Al

Cheers, will give this a bash 2moro :P


Sorry to bother you guys, but does someone have a link for no.2, because i have a feeling i'm going to need it on friday


Stephen Kay

Good, solid and practical advice for those not prepared to take Workfare lying down. We need more such information.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Above all else, ORGANIZE yourselves into CLAIMANTS UNIONS or similar! Don't sit at home frightenend and humilated but find others in a similar boat and you'll achieve so much more than if are having to face this alone.

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Parliament - Shame on you

Please add ESG to your list of providers - they are 3rd party who contract 'Manpower' to do their interviews.... Also, I have been on the work programme since Jan 2012, I didnt sign data forms and because of this, they cant help me to find work because all of their contracts ARE NOT advertised jobs and they told me that the contracts they hold do not allow joe public to contact them direct, what is the point??? Someone told me that because I didnt sign data consent I dont even need to attend the fortnightly meetings, I will ask about that and voice record the response.

mhairi mcalpine

How can you find out who is the workfare provider in your area and which companies they are working with?


THEN THEY ARE LEAVING DISABLED PEOPLE IN LIMBO FOR MONTHS WHILE THEY ARRIVE AT A (NOT NECESSARILY CORRECT DECISIONit's time the tuc or a charity backed a case against dwp for deformation/libelAs when they make the wrong decision one has to assume they think the claimant lied!

Dame Kitty Carryall

Further to the "forewarned is forearmed" arsenal, work "providers" will counter challenge your redacted CV by inferring that by not supplying a "full" CV you are scuppering an opportunity to actively seek work. This is their "justification" for attempting to initiate a sanction. They will attempt to relentlessly wear you down with this.

In order to shut them up in the short term, you can attempt to "give in" and provide a full CV but if you sign ONLY the agreement for the job search and NOTHING else, you can retroactively have them over a barrel. In other words, as long as you don't sign the data protection waiver form, you can turn around at the end of your time on the work programme and draft a letter stating that all their attempts at contacting potential employers are null and void as you never signed that waiver allowing them to contact third parties.

To FURTHER get your own back at them, once you are officially off the work programme, under the Data Protection Act, you are legally entitled and they are legally obligated to provide you with all the paperwork and documentation they amassed while dealing with you. If I'm not mistaken, I believe in order to facilitate the request you have to fork over something in the region of £10, GOOGLE "Data Protection Act 1998" for the full details. Ultimately, a tenner is small change if enough people decide to persue this - and what's ten quid in the great scheme of things if it will help to clog the machinations of the notoriously exploitative Work Programme?

Mark Johnson

I signed the letter, I have the first interview with A4E on Tuesday, so am I to understand that I attend this interview and just refuse to sign anything and this workfare will go away? If I take a voluntary job for 1 month and then return to signing on again will I be exempt from further MWA appointments? I have read that if I sign off the day before my interview and then back on again the day after there is nothing the DWP can do about it, is this correct? what would you advise my course of action to be?