Tesco has announced that it will offer to pay participants in the Government’s work experience scheme following a public outcry.
The supermarket was criticised for their involvement in the scheme after an advert posted on the Jobcentre Plus website advertised positions for night shift workers at its Bury St Edmunds store to be paid only Jobseekers Allowance and expenses.
The Government’s Workfare scheme requires those on Jobseekers Allowance to work unpaid for up to six months or face losing their benefits.
The scheme is marketed as a way to give young people experience of the workplace and all participants should have a guaranteed job interview at the end of the placement.
The scheme has been the subject of opposition since its launch from groups who argue that participants are effectively working for free.
Trade Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “While unemployed people may benefit from short periods of work experience, forcing them to effectively work for free will not solve the UK’s jobs crisis, and could even make it worse.
“The high street shops involved in the work programme are in danger of exploiting participants, some of whom are effectively being paid less than £2 an hour, and threatening the jobs and pay of existing workers.”
Following public anger that forced the closure of a London store on Saturday, Tesco has announced that in future, participants in the scheme will be given the option of being paid by the supermarket.
Participants will now be paid and have a guaranteed job at the end of the placement as long as they have been successful.
However, participants accepting Tesco’s offer will lose the guarantee of having their benefits immediately resumed if they are unsuccessful in securing a position.
Public opposition to the scheme is continuing with a national boycott Workfare day organised for March 3.
Several companies, including Waterstone’s and Superdrug, have already withdrawn from the scheme with others reconsidering their involvement.