Tag Archives: part time workers

It Had To Happen. Soon You Could Face An In-Work Benefit Sanction … For Going To Work

ids-anyonecanlivePart-time workers could face a benefit sanction for going to work under draconian new rules which force claimants of in-work benefits to constantly look for more, or better paid work.

When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) Jobcentres will have the powers to dictate how many hours a claimant should be working to remain eligible for what are now called Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Those without children, who do not have a health condition, will be required to spend up to 35 hours a week either working or taking part in work related activity such as looking for additional work or even attending workfare.  Failure to comply will result in a sanction.

The implications are chilling.  Under the new rules part-time workers will have to attend a job interview with just 48 hours notice  or their benefits will be stopped.  This is likely to mean someone required to take time off their existing employment – at short notice – to attend a job interview somewhere else.  If they go to work instead of the interview they could face a sanction.  As anyone who has ever had a real job will know, this will place claimants in an impossible position forcing to them to make the choice between risking being sacked or sanctioned.  And unfortunately their boss will probably find out they are looking for a new job  whatever they do because part of their work related activity may include being mandated to set up an online profile to “draw attention to their availability” for alternative employment.

Claimants should not face a sanction if they can demonstrate a ‘good reason’ (pdf) for not carrying out work related activity such as attending an interview.  But no-one is likely to tell them this.  Anyone who thinks that these new rules will not lead to people being sanctioned for going to work has not seen the ever growing lists of sanctions handed out to claimants for petty, inappropriate and sometimes even bizarre reasons.  Not being able to carry out work related activity because your boss makes it impossible is not even mentioned in the decision maker’s guidance, the rule book for the faceless back office Jobcentre staff who impose sanctions.

Ministers had said that people would not face a sanction if it means giving up a part-time job to attend a temporary position with longer hours.  But even the guidance on this is vague.  Decision makers are advised that someone should not be forced to leave their job to take up a fortnight’s full time temporary work but beyond this it is left to them to take a “common sense approach”.

It is astonishing, and horrifying that Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with benefit sanctions could now actually cost people their jobs.  It is what will happen to those who are sanctioned however that reveals the breath-taking cruelty behind this policy.

Somebody working 16 hours a week on minimum wage and paying £90 a week in rent (around the average Housing Benefit award) will receive £104 a week in wages and £111 under Universal Credit, a total of £215.  If they are sanctioned they will lose the equivalent of a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, currently £72.40, for each week the sanction remains in place.  Depending on where they live they will almost certainly have to pay some Council Tax from that sum, around here that would be £8 a week for someone living in the cheapest band.  After paying this, and their rent, the claimant will be left with just £44.60 a week to pay for food, clothes, bills and fares to work.  This sum will be enough to disqualify them from claiming Hardship Payments or any other form of additional help.

It is difficult to imagine how someone could maintain the level of health and hygeine necessary to hold down a job on such a paltry income, unless they stop paying their rent.  Homelessness or unemployment will be the stark choice facing sanctioned working claimants – although if they leave their job they will be sanctioned again, or possibly disallowed any benefit completely.  Even if they are able to increase their hours it will barely make a difference.  For every pound they earn they will lose 65p of what little benefit they have left whilst their Council Tax liability may also rise as they earn more.  Working another four hours a week would still not give them an income above £50 a week according to the turn2us benefit calculator.  There will be no escape.  People who are working will be condemned to desperate poverty and the longest sanctions can last for three years.

All of the main political parties support the principles behind Universal Credit, even if they are sceptical about whether the IT necessary for the system is genuinely achievable.  Few of them seem to have looked into the details of what they are supporting – and what will happen to people who are self-employed is even worse (watch this space).  These rules are aimed at people with jobs, not the unemployed.  The DWP is out of control under Iain Duncan Smith and the suffering that is yet to come unless someone puts the brakes on will dwarf anything we have seen so far.

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A Truly Chlling Move: Part Time Workers To Face Housing Benefit Sanctions DWP Confirms

what-nextUPDATE 28/6/15:  Since this post is getting a lot of attention here’s an update on where part time workers stand under Universal Credit:
It Had To Happen. Soon You Could Face An In-Work Benefit Sanction … For Going To Work

In breath-takingly savage news, it has been reported that the DWP plans to stop Housing Benefit payments to low paid part time workers if they fail to carry out ‘work related activity’.

When Universal Credit is finally introduced, those earning less than the equivalent of the minimum wage for 35 hours a week will be forced to constantly look for more or better paid work to qualify for in-work benefits such as Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Part time workers could face being sent on workfare in the hours they are not at work and will have to prove to Jobcentre busybodies that they are constantly looking for another, better paid job.

Currently sanctions are usually only inflicted on unemployed people, lone parents or those on sickness or disability benefits.  Sanctions are often imposed for the most trivial reason such as being a few minutes late for a meeting with the Jobcentre.  At present Housing Benefits, which allow people to at least keep a roof over their heads, cannot be sanctioned.

This will all change for part-time workers who will now face possible eviction if they upset the Jobcentre according to Inside Housing who warn this could affect up to a million workers.  The number of people in work reliant on Housing Benefits has soared in recent years as social housing has been eroded, whilst wages stagnated and private sector rents climbed to eye-watering levels.

It is chilling to imagine how this vicious move may play out in practice, particularly given this week’s news that evictions are at an all time high.  That it is to be inflicted on those in work just shows the depths that Iain Duncan Smith will stoop to in his attempt to bully the poor out of benefits.  More children will become homeless because of this measure, their lives destroyed before they have even really begun.

Astonishingly one of the groups most affected by this policy is likely to be Jobcentre workers themselves who will now be forced to make each other homeless.  If this doesn’t drag the so-called fighting PCS Union off their knees then nothing ever will.  Don’t hold your breath though – motions passed at the PCS Conference instructing the union to take a tougher line on benefit sanctions have been brushed under the carpet by the leadership.

Visit Boycott Workfare’s website to join the fight against workfare and benefit sanctions and sign the petition to scrap all benefit sanctions without exceptions at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/benefit-sanctions-must-be-stopped-without-exceptions-in-uk

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Universal Credit and Benefit Sanctions, What Every PCS Member Urgently Needs To Know

welfare-reform-bannerUniversal Credit may have been launched with a whimper – at just one Jobcentre affecting a handful of claimants – but unless urgent action is taken then it will prove devastating for low paid workers at the DWP, HMRC and elsewhere within both the public and private sectors.

Universal Credit is not just an attack on unemployed, sick or disabled people, but everyone dependent on some form of support, such as Tax Credits or Housing Benefits.  Part time workers earning less than the minimum wage for a full week’s work will be placed under the same ‘conditionality’ regime for in-work benefits as those currently claiming Jobseekers Allowance.  This is intended to to ‘incentivise’ low paid workers to continuously look for ‘more or better paid work’.

This conditionality, known as Work Related Activity, will at the minimum include regular interviews at the Jobcentre.  Astonishingly, a part time Jobcentre worker (or any other low paid PCS member) could leave work in the morning only to have to re-attend the Jobcentre in the afternoon for an unpaid back-to-work style interview.

At this interview, which will be carried out by a colleague in the case of Jobcentre staff, part time workers will be interrogated on what they are doing to find full time work.  Anyone who refuses to, or is unable to carry out mandated Work Related Activity – which could mean anything from workfare in the hours they aren’t in paid work to filling out dodgy personality tests – will face having in-work benefits sanctioned.  In some cases sanctions can last up to three years.

The PCS Union have estimated that up to 40% of their lowest paid members could be brought under this regime,  all watched over and policed by fellow PCS members.  This is clearly an intolerable situation with the potential to create a poisonous working environment for Jobcentre staff along with bitter disputes across the trade union movement.

For Jobcentre workers the problems do not end there.  It is no secret that some unemployed claimants, placed under relentless pressure – benefit sanctions mean kids going hungry – may take out their frustrations on Jobcentre staff.  It is also true, for somewhat obvious reasons, that people with a history of violent behaviour often find themselves on benefits.  Attacks on Jobcentre staff have tripled in some areas over the last year. 

The PCS Union have acknowledged that the enhanced sanctions regime increases the risk of Jobcentre workers facing violence, yet the DWP appear to be brushing off this very real threat to the health and safety of public sector workers.

It is not just low paid workers at risk of harm due to the new regime.  Jobcentre workers are not trained to be health assessors, social workers, probation officers or substance misuse specialists, yet they now have unprecedented power over claimant’s lives.  Child Protection measures, care plans, support for people recovering from addiction or vital work to house homeless people can now all be interrupted by Jobcentre demands that claimants attend workfare or face having benefits stopped.

Jobcentre workers may be completely unaware of factors from a claimant’s personal life, whether that be a health condition or a criminal record which makes a workfare placement unsuitable. Claimants on sickness or disability benefits can now also be sent on workfare.  No health and safety assessments are carried out into placement providers and there have even been concerns raised about whether workfare staff are always adequately insured.  In most cases no CRB checks are carried out.

A tragedy is almost inevitable and when it happens it is quite likely to be a front line worker scape-goated by management, the media or government ministers.  Jobcentre workers are not paid anything like enough to shoulder this level of responsibility.

Even events which don’t make the headlines should be enough to make all Jobcentre staff pause for thought.  Jobcentre managers have long warned of the increased risk of suicide amongst benefit claimants.  Even without the shocking attacks on the working conditions and safety of Jobcentre staff, there is a moral dimension to benefit sanctions that can no longer be swept under the carpet.

Jobcentre workers did not sign up to act as Iain Duncan Smith’s unofficial police force, yet they now have greater powers in some cases than magistrates to sentence people to unpaid work.  Benefit sanctions are comparable to a heavy fine just for missing a meeting or misunderstanding a letter.  The end results of these sanctions are child poverty, homelessness and debt.  No worker should be compelled to force other working class people – who have committed no crime other than being sick , disabled, parents, unemployed or even under-employed  – into absolute destitution.

The recent leaks which exposed benefit sanction league tables shows just how far DWP management are prepared to go to enforce this callous regime.  The fact that ministers have denied the existence of targets to sanction claimants represents yet another attack on frontline staff.  Jobcentre workers are now being disciplined for not meeting targets that the Government claim do not exist.

When all low paid part time workers face Work Related Activity,  both colleagues and trade union comrades alike will be under pressure by management to sanction each other’s in-work benefits.

The introduction of Universal Credit is a matter of urgency for all low paid or part time workers.  Sanctions are the teeth of the new measures, and must be fought in workplaces and on the streets if necessary.  Two motions had been tabled at the PCS Conference in May this year to discuss some form of industrial action to resist sanctions, a long held demand of claimants and many rank and file PCS members.

These motions will now not be discussed after the PCS  Standing Orders Committee removed them from the conference agenda.  The union’s National Executive Committee seem to have washed their hands of this decision and claimed they were not responsible.  The thinking amongst the PCS leadership seems to be that benefit sanctions are not a workplace issue for members, or at least are not yet.  In truth sanctions have already created a toxic and brutalised regime at the DWP and the situation is set to become far worse.

Universal Credit has been fully enshrined in legislation.  Whilst the timetable for full implementation is unclear, the roll out is likely to be hugely extended from October this year.  The time to fight is now.  Only action, not words, can stop this attack on the UK’s poorest workers.  Low paid workers from other sectors, along with all claimants whether out of work or not,  should stand firmly behind rank and file PCS members lobbying the leadership, and more importantly the membership, for meaningful action.  Only then can we act collectively to stop the all out war on the very poorest that Jobcentre workers are to be expected to wage on behalf of this Government.

The Civil Service Rank & File (CSRF) Network has called a rally outside of the PCS union’s Annual Delegate Conference at lunchtime on Tuesday 21 May, urging delegates to support a position of non-cooperation with sanctions against welfare claimants.  They will be joined by claimants.  For more details, and to help spread the word visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/258534454291849/

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Mark Hoban Begs For Help With Floundering Welfare Reform

mark-hoban-scroungerSkiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban resorted to begging the corporate sector for new ideas to harass benefit claimants in his speech to the Policy Exchange this week.

In a rare appearance,  Hoban tried to do butch and turned his attention to self employed and part time workers.  When Universal Credit is launched these workers will be forced to continually look for ‘more or better paid’ work as a condition of receiving in work benefits.  Over a million people are set to be affected by the change, which could mean part time workers forced to leave jobs to take up temporary positions, or self employed people forced to turn down work to attend workfare.

Single parents, sick and disabled people are also to be forced into endless job searching meaning already over-stretched Jobcentre staff could see workloads almost tripled.  With no large scale recruitment at the DWP on the cards, many have asked whether this kind of mass state intrusion is even possible.

Universal Jobmatch was one answer, the online job seeking site recently set up at the cost of millions.  Unfortunately Monster Jobs – who designed the site – pulled a fast one on bungling Iain Duncan Smith and it’s rubbish and probably illegal.

With computers proving too complicated for DWP Ministers, Hoban’s latest crazy scheme is to police the ‘toughest ever’ benefit conditionality regime by the medium of text.

Plans have been announced to taunt part time workers with texts, informing them of the astounding fact that if they got a full time job they’d have more money.   For the millions already desperate to increase hours this senseless provocation will be accompanied by a monthly letter, telling them the same thing.  There will even be an online calculator, just like there is now, so claimants can work out that if they earn more money then they will have more money.

Lord Fraud is even going round bull-shitting that these magical texts will somehow create 300,000 new jobs!

With Universal Credit descending into a shambles, the DWP are looking desperate for ideas.  So much so that Hoban and Lord Fraud have launched a consultation begging for help from charities and the welfare to work sector.

Hoban obviously isn’t interested in doing any actual work himself.  If this week’s speech is the best he can come up with, then it’s probably best for the entire country that he goes back to his bed and draws the curtains.

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How Universal Credit Will Destroy Part Time Work

Universal Credit, the Government’s new benefit regime, will prove devastating for part time workers and may mean part time work is no longer viable as a route out of poverty or unemployment.

The recent small fall in unemployment has been entirely down to the growth of part time work.  Unprecedented numbers of people are now working part time and are dependent on some benefits to meet their housing costs and other costs of living.  The number of people in full time work has continued to fall.

Despite this Universal Credit seems tailor made to punish any minimum wage worker who cannot find work for 35 hours a week.  Under the new regime those earning less than 35 hours a week will face ‘work conditionality requirements’ that may mean obtaining or keeping part time work is impossible.  Claimants will be forced to attend work related interviews and carry out intensive job search to find full time work during any hours they are not currently working.

Workers will face brutal sanctions for non-compliance.  Under the new rules a part time workers must be prepared to attend an interview for a job with longer hours within 48 hours of being dictated to do so by the DWP.  Should they fail to attend then they will face sanctions.  Should this happen more than twice then they will be sanctioned for up to three years, even if they have children to support.

Part time workers will also have to be prepared to hand in their notice and leave as soon as legally possible should they be offered a position with longer hours.

It is clear that this will lead to anomalies.  Someone working 30 hours a week may be forced to immediately leave and take up a 32 hour a week job.  The same will apply to someone working 10 hours a week, who may be forced to leave to work somewhere else for 12 hours.  Until the magic figure of 35 hours a week is reached, claimants will be continually hounded in and out of work.

It will not matter that perhaps the lesser paid job is providing training, has better prospects, is in the local area or fits with child care commitments.  Under the draft regulations as they stand it will not even matter if the job with longer hours is merely temporary.  Someone with a long term part time job could be forced to leave to take up a fortnight’s full time work.

Whilst Ministers will claim such experiences are likely to be exceptional, or won’t happen in practice, experience of the benefits system reveals the opposite to be true.  We can perhaps optimistically assume that the hundreds of thousands of people with life threatening and terminal conditions who have won tribunal victories to have sickness or disability benefits restored, were not expected to occur.  They too are anomalies, exceptions, cases that wouldn’t occur in practice.  We can hopefully presume that young people weren’t intended to have been forced to sleep under a bridge for no wages during the Queen’s Jubiliee.  Yet that’s exactly what happened.

With Jobcentre and benefit staff under continuous pressure to sanction claimants and meet targets, very often the worst case scenario envisaged when drawing up benefits legislation becomes the norm in practice.

It is the impact that these rules will have on employers however that will undermine the delivery of the new regime.  Employers are unlikely to take on part time workers knowing they are being forced to continually look for a job with longer hours elsewhere.  No Universal Credit claimant will be able to honestly show any commitment to their future role, knowing that at any moment the DWP could force them to take up work somewhere else.  Few employers will sanction workers skipping off for interviews with another employer with just 48 hours notice.  Some part time workers may even find themselves sacked for meeting this new DWP requirement.  Should they not be successful at the interview they may end up out of work all together.

Once again Iain Duncan Smith is launching sweeping reform of the benefits system with no real thought as to the consequences.

It is highly likely that employers will opt not to offer part time work to UK workers on Universal Credit.  No employer wants workers who are likely to leave at the drop of the hat and are actively undermining the workforce by sloping off for interviews every five minutes.

As ever these new rules are to be strictly targeted at the low paid only.  Part time workers who earn enough to meet the weekly income threshold – which is to be the weekly amount earned by someone working minimum wage for 35 hours a week – will still be eligible for in work benefits without being forced to look for longer hours.

Therefore a professional worker, who earns for example £20 p/h for eleven hours a week, will be exempt for these new rules and still eligible for in work benefits without harassment from the DWP.  A supermarket workers who works 30 hours a week however will be under constant pressure to increase their hours or leave their job.

Once again this Government is not just punishing people for being unable to find work.  It is punishing those who are unable to find well paid work.  As previously mentioned, even the Victorian distinction between deserving and undeserving poor matter not for this Government of millionaires.  If you are poor, whether in work or not, this Government blames you and is coming for you.

Universal Credit is set to be shambolic in implementation and brutal in practice.  In many cases it will punish, not reward,those who find work.  It will cost billions.  This isn’t stopping Iain Duncan Smith and his toff friend Lord Fraud from pushing ahead with this desperately out of touch legislation.  It’s almost like they’ve never had a proper job and have little idea of how the low paid sector works in practice.

The draft regulation for Universal Credit have just been published and are open to consultation at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consult.shtml

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