Budget retailer Poundland has been accused of exploiting staff on a government work experience scheme and making them work for free for up to two months.
According to The Guardian several staff who took part in the scheme, managed by local Jobcentres across the country, worked up to 30 hours a week stacking shelves for no pay.
The work experience scheme was supposedly voluntary but one staff member told the publication they “had no say in it really”.
Others who took part in the scheme said they were told to complete work experience by their Jobcentre “work coach”, who referred them to the retailer.
“This is not work experience, this is work – and Poundland should pay for it,” said Tanya de Grunwald from graduate employment website Graduate Fog.
Poundland reportedly joined the scheme at the start of the year which aims to give job seekers a “taste” of the working world for up to eight weeks.
Unlike other work experience programmes run by the Department of Work and Pensions, Poundland‘s initiative does not determine whether claimant‘s benefits should be withheld and it stated that some volunteers went on to become fully employed.
This is not the first time the discount retailer has come under fire for allegedly using work experience volunteers for free labour.
In 2013 Poundland lost a court case against a graduate who argued it was unlawful to force her to work for free to receive her Jobseeker’s allowance.
A spokesman for Poundland told The Guardian: “We‘re sorry some of the people you spoke to felt their time with us wasn‘t worthwhile.
“Our stores try hard to make it a positive experience and we know it has been for many. We‘re always open to being told directly how to make it better.”
The Department for Work and Pensions added: “It‘s important that all opportunities – including those in the retail sector – are made available to jobseekers to help them move towards permanent work.
“Work experience is entirely voluntary and gives people the chance to increase their skills and gain vital on-the-job experience, something that businesses really value.”