Tales of unpaid toil: workfare continues at B&M

Tales of unpaid toil: workfare continues at B&MReferrals to the Community Work Placements and Mandatory Work Placements schemes ended on 31 March 2016, but we are receiving more complaints from people put on Work Experience and Sector-based Work Academies. Here’s an account from someone who served time at B&M Bargains. Remember that these schemes are not compulsory though you may be told otherwise: please see Workfare: Know Your Rights for more information. We are in the process of updating this page but the information on Work Experience still applies.

I am currently on the Work Experience scheme at B&M in Droitwich Spa, doing over 30 hours of unpaid work for four weeks. If I do not do this I will have my Job Seekers Allowance cut.

There are four people, including myself, doing forced unpaid labour here. We have been told by the job centre and B&M that only one out the four of us might be given a job after the four weeks. So three of us will be working full time and won’t even get a chance at the position, and even the fourth person might not even get the job as they say it is only “possible” someone will be taken on.

I am working more hours than the paid staff and now I have to work evenings too. I will have to work on a bank holiday Monday for no pay, which is disgraceful. The paid staff members are only meant to be working a couple of days a week plus occasional extra hours. But I have to work 30 hours per week for a month. I have also been given a uniform by B&M so people can’t tell the difference between paid and unpaid workers.

This week I’ve been working very long hours for no pay – I was even asked to do eight-hour days when I am only meant to work for six hours each day. It seems like I’m being punished for not being able to find a job. If I do a day’s work I want a day’s pay. I don’t think that B&M will keep me on; the company will just get another lot of unpaid workers over and over again instead of employing people.

One of the other Work Experience people had been turned down when he had an interview for a real job at B&M, but was taken on to work for free when he was sent by the DWP – what does that say?

I thought slavery was illegal, but if I don’t work full time for free I won’t be able to eat.

We are not given training on how to do the job and we’re also expected to train the other unpaid workers. While I’m doing my shift there are only around one or two paid staff about, so B&M is obviously using us to cover shifts instead of paying workers to do the same job.

Our ‘induction’ just involved someone reading out of a book instead of any training or information about what my job involves. I’ve been given no contract or guidelines on hours I should be working.

I am unlikely to get the job at the end as my previous work experience has all been in administration.

I refuse to work bank holiday for free, I refuse to do the same job as the paid staff for free and I refuse to be treated as a slave.

All I want is a paid job, but B&M is making millions each year but won’t even pay its staff.

We are often asked to “cheer up” but it’s hard to keep a high morale when your human rights are taken away from you.  Will

Postscript: Will writes that his work experience has finished now and he didn’t get the job, along with two other people. After the month they have hired one out of four of the DWP conscripts. The conscripts were told by the firm and the Job Centre that this is standard practice – so we can speculate that B&M could be getting a good 3/4 of its wage bill subsidised by the DWP and taxpayers. Who’s the ‘scrounger’ now? 



Comments (9)

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jon parker

Yet another terrible story of the Workfare regime which is taking tremendous liberties with (or simply exploiting to the full) the good will of the unemployed who are simply trying to find paid work. The only advice I can offer people in this dreadful situation is to offer the action previously recommended on this site - join a dedicated anti-workfare campaign, know your rights and, for those that are not directly affected by these regimes, simply blacklist the companies involved and withdraw your support from them in the most direct way possible - don't shop with them anymore. Also publicise stories like this to raise awareness of the problem amongst the general public as widely as possible.

Jeff Smith

Disgraceful that these companies are being aided by the DWP in obtaining free labour like this.


I am currently employed by B&M, and while I do feel sorry for those forced to work there, for any store, as part of the workfare scheme, it's not that much better if the 1 out of 4 here does get a job with them.

Management are known to have their cliques, and full on nepotism is openly done where that can apply, including to family friends. The store I work at took on 8, of which 6 had the sense to not turn up, and those others were quickly dismissed for not knowing the job. The job they had no training for, and as above the orientation was to read a book.

Even so, management took a new lot in because of the financial incentive, regardless of whether the people who come in can do the job.

Even stupider, there are hardly enough hours to do the staff that have worked there since opening. All of us saw our hours drop from 30-45pw to 16. Without the workfare, there are no more than 2 floor staff on at a time, and sometimes no male member of staff, as B&M have an unwritten rule that female staff cannot lift heavy goods, but a single male must lift something deemed a two person lift.

I've had enough and am ready to walk soon, but don't want to without a new job to go into as otherwise it's signing on again and running the risk of having to work there again, this time for free.

Now we'll be heading out of Europe, we don't have any recourse to stop this practice and as it has now gotten to a point where people are being expected to work for free, as in not just to cover their benefits, we cannot be far off the riots that have been predicted if nothing changes.

Jon Ment

Sad to say I am not surprised by this. An employer I was sent on Workfare with would take on ten or twelve people from the Job Centre. The result of all this free labour was that NOBODY at all got a job, and every worker was taken to one side and promised employment by supervisors or the Job Centre. One good thing is that the lying cheating scumbags closed down a couple of years later, so they didn't profit much in the long run. We used to skive off during quiet periods: I had many a pleasant hour sitting in the sun in the warehouse yard behind a wall of flowerpots and fertiliser sacks. If anyone turned up I used to grab a broom and start sweeping.


List is inaccurate where are Leicester, Portsmouth, Bristol (rovers + city)

Loads of footie clubs were all over the scheme a few years back before opinion began to swing against it

Eowyn Rohan

The company is saving not only paying a wage bill (reference being made to 3/4), but also tax and national insurance.

Although I would suggest that anyone subject to harassment from the Job Centre to work for a business for nothing should discuss the matter with the CAB, and a claim for back pay, but also issue a report to HMRC for potential tax fraud.

If a candidate is told to report to a place of work between specified dates/times, told what to do, when to do, how to do it, under supervision, then the candidate is subject to a defacto contract of emoloyment and entitled to at least National Minimum Wage.

The effective loss to the State per candidate per 4 week period = hours per week x national minimum wage plus tax plus national insurance.

William Smith

We are planning a campaign against "Workfare" under its new guises. If you have any examples of B & M stores, or any other businesses, in the Coventry area which use slave labour, we would be most grateful if you could inform us.

brian hendry

I'm a deputy Manager at B&M Bargains, you don't want to work here!!

It's shite, poor pay, crap hours and more drama then a Mexican soap!

Every1 I know is leaving this sinking ship and the store is ready to close within a few months... staff don't know there jobs will go at this time... sad time eh.

Sear well clear of it, every1 wants out!

Boycott Workfare » Blog Archive » Day of action against benefit sanctions, workfare and disability cuts – 30 March

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