Stewart McDonald MP has said the UK Government must urgently review and change the terms of Department for Work and Pensions' work programmes and work trials after it was revealed the Department was unable to disclose how many job seekers and benefit claimants were being asked to work for free.
The MP for Glasgow South questioned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) regarding how many people had taken part in the Department's 'Sector-based work academy programme’ and ‘JobCentre Plus Work Trials’, which sometimes run for weeks at a time for no wage and no guarantee of a job at the end.
The DWP's response stated they were "exploring ways to increase the robustness of this data to a point where it can be published."
SNP MP Stewart McDonald had also recently written to the DWP renewing calls to the UK Government to change the law and ensure everyone taking part in a work trial is paid a fair wage.
It is estimated that £3billion worth of wages are lost every year in the UK, with unpaid work trials contributing to this total.
Commenting, Stewart McDonald MP said:
"Whilst it is important that we do what we can to help businesses get back on their feet after full lockdown, this cannot be to the detriment of potential employees, many who will be suffering mentally and financially as a result of the effects of the pandemic.
"So for the DWP, who run and promote the 'Sector-based work academy programme’ and ‘JobCentre Plus Work Trials’ , to not know how many jobseekers and those on benefits are being asked to work for free is beggars belief.
"This is not good enough.
"These programmes and work trials do not guarantee a wage or a job, and they can last anywhere up to six weeks, which cannot be right.
"I have long campaigned and even presented a Bill to ban unpaid work trials, and I still hear horror stories from people who are being asked to work hours unpaid, without knowing if they will even get the job – if there even is one available.
"The UK Government must urgently review these placements and trials, tell us how many people have worked for no wage and ensure that this is rectified going forward so that everyone is paid fairly and properly for the work that they do, which is more important than ever in a post-COVID world and the recovery that goes with it.
“People who do a fair day’s work deserve a fair day’s pay."