Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Workfare - yes or no?

If you haven't heard about Workfare where have you been? In essence it's a scheme to get the long-term unemployed back into work; which sounds great. However issues have been raised about its nature.

To begin I'm in two minds about this. Fundamentally I see the need for this type of scheme. Having been unemployed I know how difficult it can be to get out of that mindset and back into a 'work' mindset; particularly when it seems you're getting paid for doing nothing. Add in those who graduate from education straight onto the dole and it must be particularly difficult to shift.

Likewise I can see the need to force people onto this scheme. Given the choice to be paid to do nothing or something; who can be blamed for choosing the nothing option?

Given all that why is there a problem? Firstly there was the alleged disingenuity of the premise - the scheme was voluntary however once volunteered it became compulsory. The second major point was the companies being targetted as providers of this service - big billion pound profit companies. Which makes the third point even worse - these companies weren't paying for the services.

We the taxpayers through the government were paying people to work at companies returning massive profits. Backlash!

As more details emerged this seemed even more unfair. Allegedly miss a day of work and your 'quota' would be reset. Companies were obliged to provide a job interview at the end of the period; but not an actual job. This meant a company could 'hire' someone to do the job for free; interview them at the end and say "Sorry no job" and then 'hire' another person for free to do the same job. All at our expense. Why would the companies do that though; surely the time taken to have to induct a new set of trainees outweighs the 'freeness' of their work. Well yes if what they were doing was trained work; it's not it's all unskilled work that requires little to no training with minimal supervision required.

In short the companies were essentially being placed in charge and being appeased; hardly surprising of the Conservative Party though.

What could make this scheme work though? Firstly the company pays the trainee directly and then claims the money back from the government; and the amount paid post-tax must be equal to the JSA. This is important as it puts the trainee on the companies books and they become protected by the standard employment laws.

Secondly if after the trial period has finished the company decides whether or not to employ that person for that position. If they decide not to hire them then they cannot take on another trainee for that work unless they explain why the previous trainee wasn't suitable.

Thirdly the layoff terms must be balanced - the company can 'return' the trainee if they find them unsuitable (again with an explanation); but the trainee must also be able to leave the company without forfeiture (again providing an explanation).

All this should get the long-term unemployed into a work habit without leaving them open to exploitation by the companies.


Orphi said...

That does indeed sound completely broken to me.

But you know what? I was listening to some people talking the other day, and some person was complaining that by going back to work, they were losing money.

To me, this is where the system is fundamentally broken. There should be no way in hell for someone in full-time employment to be getting less money than somebody sitting around doing nothing. A person who's actually working should be getting shedloads more money. If they aren't, then either benefits are too high or the minimum wage is too low (or perhaps both).

If going back to work leaves you less well off, what sane person would bother looking for work? That's absurd.

But hey, what do I know? Not a lot, apparently…

FlipC said...

Full-time employment should always pay more than the JSA; the problem kicks in for both those who take on part-time work and those with additional benefits.

The JSA and other benefits (at least as I recall it) get treated in one fell swoop. As soon as you get a job then it becomes up to that person to start digging out what other benefits they might be entitled too.

To anyone on a low wage it's worth checking out the HMRC's page regarding Working Tax Credits, but as I say it's something they have to do and they have to apply for.

It's not necessarily that they'll 'earn' less; just that they income shifts and doesn't just happen automatically.