Leading retailer Tesco has changed the details of its involvement with the government’s workfare scheme after receiving criticism for employing young workers without paying them a wage.
Tesco is now to offer a choice to applicants of either taking up a four-week placement where their benefits are protected & will be paid during the duration, or they can enter into a four-week role paid by Tesco with a guaranteed permanent job to follow as long they complete the work satisfactorily.
This change of policy, arranged with the Department of Work & Pensions, follows a barrage of abuse aimed at the grocer following the emergence last week of a job advert for night shift work at the company where only job seekers allowance and expenses would be paid.
CEO of Tesco UK Richard Brasher commented on the alteration to the scheme: “We know it is difficult for young people to give up benefits for a short-term placement with no permanent job at the end of it.
“So this guarantee that a job will be available provided the placement is completed satisfactorily, should be a major confidence boost for young people wanting to enter work on a permanent basis.”
Since agreeing to take part in the government’s scheme around 1,500 work placements have been delivered by Tesco and as many as 300 young people taking part have subsequently been hired for a paid position within the company.
Tesco claimed that the offending advert was the consequence of a IT error by JobCentre Plus and should have been clearly labelled as work experience, but many commentators on social media and in mainstream publications accused the business of using the initiative to secure unpaid labour.
Jon Copestake, Retail Analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, argues that it is unsurprising that many other retailers are now reviewing their involvement in the government’s plans after what he calls a “public relations disaster” for Tesco.
“Whether or not the firm was genuinely mistaken in advertising night shift work at “jobseekers allowance plus expenses” the anger it prompted has shown the scheme itself to be unpopular for many consumers,” Copestake said.
“Whilst there is merit to an initiative that offers valuable on the job work experience and opportunities for employment, critics point to how it can be exploited to supply cheap unskilled labour with little future prospects.
“It is this PR risk that retailers have to balance when evaluating involvement.”