Referrals 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?