A cleaning job advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website is asking potential candidates to carry out ‘volunteer shifts prior to engagement’ in breach of minimum wage laws. (H/T @AtosMiraclesfb)
The vacancy is at Thornton Manor, a stately home in Wirral which has been converted into a luxury wedding and conference centre. According to one intrepid jobseeker who inquired about this job, potential recruits are expected to carry out a voluntary shift in case they don’t like it. It was then admitted that actually this unpaid work is for the benefit of both parties although in some cases potential employees may not have to carry out a full shift.
This is the latest example of grasping employers using ‘try before you buy’ schemes to minimise the cost of recruitment. Taking on staff involves a level of risk, and greedy companies are now trying to push the cost of that onto unemployed people by forcing them to work for free before they are given a proper job. Of course starting a new job can also be risky. There are no shortage of abusive and exploitative employers out there after all. But there is little in place to protect unemployed people against that.
Thornton Manor are almost certainly acting unlawfully – they are not a charity and if people are expected to work then they are entitled to be paid the minimum wage. Astonishingly however some companies running government workfare schems are openly advertising this kind of exploitation. And it’s legal.
Those sent on unpaid work schemes by Jocentres have little or no workplace rights, including the right to a wage. Welfare-to-work company Ixion Holdings are currently offering employers unpaid workers on Traineeships for up to six months with ‘nominal risk or cost implication’.
Ixion were also recently caught lying to potential employers that forced unpaid workers Community Work Placements are ‘volunteers’. They are wrong about the time Traineeships are expected to work without pay as well. The latest guidance states that the work experience element of a Traineeship should be 240 hours, or eight weeks.
What is taking place is a simple wealth grab from the very poorest to the rich. Unemployed people being expected to bear the cost of risks associated with recruitment means fatter salaries for company directors. It also means that under the cover of so-called work trials like these, unscrupulous companies can maintain a rolling stock of free workers and never actually pay any of them. And the DWP will cheer them on because making the life of unemployed people as miserable as possible is now far more important than helping them get jobs that pay a wage you can survive on.
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