Leading UK supermarket chain Tesco has strongly defended its association with a government led employment scheme, following public criticism of one of its job adverts.
A permanent position of a night shift worker at one of Tesco stores in East Anglia was posted on the Jobcentre Plus website earlier this month with a salary listed as ‘the job seekers allowance & expenses‘.
The job is part of a work experience scheme launched by the government last year to try and tackle the high level of youth unemployment, which sees large major employers offer free training to jobseekers followed by a guaranteed interview for a permanent position.
Although the ‘Workfare‘ initiative is intended to help young people get a foothold in the job market, it has come under criticism from some quarter as a way for companies to replace existing staff with unpaid employees.
Large volumes of angry comments were posted on Twitter last night and this morning in response to the ad, with critics arguing that Tesco was using the government scheme to employ free labour.
In a typical comment, one of those angered by the ad, Tim Ireland, said: “Dear Tesco; if you‘re not going to pay your staff, I‘m not going to shop in your store. Simple as.”
Tesco responded today by claiming that the ad was a mistake caused by an IT error by Jobcentre Plus and that it is in the process of being recitified.
The retailer also explained that the description should have clearly stated that the position was for work experience rather than a permanent role.
“We take our responsibility as Britain‘s biggest private sector employer seriously,” Tesco‘s statement read.
“This includes giving young people valuable experience of the workplace, and 300 young people have so far gone on to get permanent employment with us as a result of work experience in recent months, but not as a replacement or substitute for our permanent staff.
“In general, Tesco staff receive a higher level of basic pay than any other supermarket, without exception.”
Although much of the noise emanating from Twitter over the issue was negative towards Tesco‘s motives, other sympathised with the grocery giant.
One such commentator, Ged Robinson, said: “I find it hard to criticise Tesco in this Workfare thing. Company gets offered free labour, no brainer. Govts to blame for introducing sic.”