Tescos accidentally reveals the exploitation at the heart of workfare

There has been huge outcry in response to a job advert from Tescos for a 30 hours a week nightshift UNPAID through the Job Centre Work Experience scheme. This isn’t a one-off. A year ago, Boycott Workfare spoke to someone at the job centre who had just finished seven nights on the trot of forced unpaid work at Tescos.

Tescos tries to defend itself by saying the placements are voluntary. But what is voluntary about having to work 30 hour weeks unpaid or risk losing the meagre £53 a week Jobseekers Allowance that young people have to survive on?

Tescos says it has recently employed 300 people through the scheme. But even if you believe this figure, that is only 21% of the 1400 people who have already done their stint.

Once people are on these schemes have very little recourse to challenge bad treatment, and managers take advantage:

Last week Sainsbury’s withdrew from the scheme after public pressure. Following today’s public outcry, TK Maxx has also stepped backHelp us step up the pressure on Tescos and other stores accepting workfare!


Comments (17)

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Celeste Bagley

Why are people being forced to work without pay. I wouldn't work for nothing and most people wouldn't so why should those who are on benefits be forced to do this. Surely this is against human rights.

Melvin Burton


Absolutely appalling, I pay taxes to support a welfare system, not to provide free labour to wealthy corporations.

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The USA has somewhat of a similar program in a subsidy program and since the wages paid are 25% below that of a 1968 minimum wage worker it might as well be workfare. Here's how it employee (who has to be "trained" to enter the workforce) signs two forms ..W2 for tax purposes and Workers Investment tax Credit. This form allows for the employer to receive $2500 in tax credits if they hire the worker and keep them for a min. of 400 hours. Most of our places like McD's and Wendys etc. churn their stock of employees three times a year so it gets them a pretty nice underwrite of workers...Boycott them in the states as well.

Raymond Kelly

At the minimum wage 30hrs/week would be worth £150 so this practice undermines the minimum wage.

Not only that, but the employer will replace paid employees with unpaid employees, increasing the numbers on benefit, since both will then be drawing benefit.

The only gainer is the multinationals who are getting free labour at the taxpayer's expense.


Benefits are payment! No work no pay get used to it as that's how the world works. If you want money for nothing become a banker.

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if they're receiving welfare payment the cash for this comes from both corporate tax and personal income tax. the link between who pays the tax and who benefits from the 'free work is hard to prove (only a tiny proportion of the labour Tesco gets is 'free' - negligible impact on profit margins). The point of this programme is to force people to go out and get that paid job that would otherwise be taken by a Romanian/Bulgarian/Lithuanian. This campaign is focusing on the wrong target. Wouldn't it be less complicated and cheaper to simply eliminate welfare payments to all but the absolute neediest. A healthy college grad (degree in underwater basket-weaving notwithstanding) should take a job that pays. Our grandparents/greatgrandparents made lives for themselves after fighting world wars and this generation is moaning about welfare. disgusting.

Simon Dunn

Tesco is a huge, massively profitable company. Why does it need to use forced, free labour?

Jani Franck

It's very important to contact the places you shop if they implement this scheme, and boycott them until they stop.

Sadly I already seem to be boycotting a number of them for different unethical business practices - but they don't need to know that!

I was disappointed to be taken to a 'give us some money' page when I attempted to email more than 10 of the CEOs on the list - rather obstructive to the campaign to extort money from activists, isn't it!?


I'm on JSA. I have long believed that people like me should be required to give something back to the society that helps support us in our hour(s) of need. I have no objection to having to do some work for my JSA (as long as expenses are paid), but think that the number of hours should be such that, at minimum wage, it would offset the value of the JSA.


Arthur said at 3:50 pm on February 18th, 2012: (my reply to author).

Our forefather fought for a better world for the less well off, if they knew they were fighting to bring back slavery, poverty, and destitution they would probably have turned their guns on their officers.

All we are seeing now is the return of a class ridden society where the poorest are expect to work for peanuts and be treated like slaves. It's utterly repulsive, as are you.


Who is this "Tescos" you keep referring to? I've not seen such a company trading in the UK, only one by the name of "Tesco".


how much does the average job seeker get in rent, council tax, training and god knows what else? it wouldn't surprise me if the average job seeker is in no danger of earning below the minimum wage.

M Gurdin

Your email address for Tesco on this page did not work, but I managed to contact them with this one -

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