Stewart McDonald MP has called on the UK Government to change the terms of Department for Work and Pensions' work programmes and work trials for job seekers and benefit claimants to ensure that everyone is paid for the work that they do.
A recent column in the New Statesman (August 19th 2020) highlighted the case of a young Universal Credit claimant, who lost their job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and who was asked to work two weeks unpaid as part of the ‘Sector-based work academy programme’.
SNP MP Stewart McDonald had previously presented a Bill, and continues to campaign, to end the practice of employers asking job applicants to work for hours, days, or even weeks without any payment or guarantee of a job at the end of it.
It is estimated that £3billion worth of wages are lost every year in the UK, with unpaid work trials contributing to this total.
Writing to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the MP for Glasgow South renewed calls to the UK Government to change the law and ensure everyone taking part in a work trial is paid a fair wage.
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.
"Jobseekers and those on benefits participate in the DWP's 'Sector-based work academy programme’ and ‘JobCentre Plus Work Trials’ out of good faith, sometimes for weeks at a time, and to receive no wage and face the threat of no job at the end of it is extremely unfair.
"These programmes and work trials do not guarantee a wage or a job, and they can last anywhere up to six weeks. That 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 the terms of these placements and trials and ensure 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."