As the legality of the government’s ‘workfare’ schemes is again challenged in court – with two claimants taking their cases to the Court of Appeal today – some companies appear to be making the most of the free labour on offer while they still can.
At the beginning of the year, Corporate Watch reported that claimants were being sent to Asda by their Jobcentre to do unpaid workfare placements over the busy Christmas and New Year periods, replacing the temporary staff usually hired – and paid.
Back then, the supermarket’s press office told us they would “investigate further” and that the placements were “not designed to substitute colleague roles”.
But a year on, it seems Asda – like Argos, Superdrug and others – still can’t shake the workfare habit. Last month, we received reports that the Asda Superstore in Wallingham, Croydon was bringing in claimants on workfare placements for the Christmas rush in place of the seasonal workers it would otherwise have employed.
When we put this to Asda, we were told the information was “incorrect” as the store had taken on 50 temps over the Christmas period and “work placement opportunities made available to the Jobcentre are over and above paid roles and on a voluntary basis to people who want to get some experience in retail”.
But the company did say the store has had 18 people on workfare placements over the pre-Christmas period – an increase from the 15 working in the similar-sized Harrogate Superstore last year.
So does the store usually have 18 people on placements, or are there more for Christmas? If 18 is the normal amount, that’s a lot of placements over the course of a year. And if 18 is unusually high, it seems unlikely they are not doing work that would otherwise be paid.
Strangely, despite several calls and emails, we haven’t received a reply to that question.
Have you been sent on an unpaid work placement or do you know someone who has? Contact Corporate Watch on 02074260005 or contact[at]corporatewatch.org