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Poundland latest to suspend workfare scheme

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Value retailer Poundland has become the latest business to withdraw from the government’s workfare scheme for the young unemployed following last week’s controversy surrounding Tesco.

Public outrage over a job advert which seemed to offer a permanent position at leading supermarket chain Tesco for no pay other than the jobseekers allowance & expenses, forced the retailer to change the nature of its association with the programme earlier this week.

Accusations that major retailer were using the scheme, which attempts to get jobless young people back into employment by organising unpaid work experience for them, to secure free labour, has led in the last few days to Sainsbury’s, TK Maxx and Waterstones all withdrawing from the initiative.

Now Poundland, which has created thousands of new jobs through store growth over the last few years, has become the latest to end its participation.

Jim McCarthy, CEO of Poundland, said yesterday: “We have today suspended the workfare scheme in Poundland but continue with volunteer work experience for young people who wish to work in retail. Voluntary workers receive training and very often join us or other retailers within a short space of time.”

“Our store opening programme creates around 2,000 new jobs each year and typically 40 per cent of those will be between 16 and 24 years of age.”

The government has hit back at critic of the workfare scheme, branding those who discredited work experience at major retailers as a valuable step to finding gainful employment “job snobs”.

In an open letter to Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee, a critic of the programme, published on the Politics Home website yesterday, Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “So far our experience has been that a significant number of placements turn into jobs, with the employer getting to like the young person and keeping them on. We have had cases of jobs being offered within days.

“It’s proving to be one of the best and quickest ways to help young unemployed people into jobs in the face of a frequent reluctance by employers to hire someone with little or no experience.”

Poundland, which pays all of its staff members above the minimum wage, created more than 2,000 temporary jobs over the Christmas period to deal with increased demand.

Published on Friday 24 February by Editorial Assistant

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