Midland retailer Poundland has suspended its involvement in the Government’s controversial workfare back-to-work scheme.

Willenhall-based Poundland has become the latest high street chain to take a step back from the scheme amid concern of the use of unpaid benefits claimants in some of Britain’s biggest companies.

In a statement, the retailer said it had decided to withdraw from a “mandatory work programme” while the Government clarified its position on the scheme, but said it would continue to offer voluntary work experience as part of a separate initiative.

The move comes after Tesco’s involvement in the scheme had created controversy when it emerged it had advertised a role offering “Jobseeker’s Allowance plus benefits”.

The Birmingham Post reported this week that the retailer had been considering its use of the initiative, and chief executive Jim McCarthy has since confirmed it has suspended its involvement.

He said: “We have taken recent findings about the mandatory work programme candidates very seriously and with further investigation have decided to withdraw from the initiative.”

Poundland said it would continue to talk to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure no jobseeker was penalised for dropping out of a placement, as opposed to the current system under which participants can lose some benefits if they drop out without “good reason” after the first week.

After a furore created by its job centre advert, Tesco has since said that although it would continue to participate in the coalition’s work experience scheme, it would now offer jobseekers a choice of remaining on benefits or taking up paid work with a guarantee of a staff job at the end of the four-week placement if the trial was successful.

Several other companies, including Waterstones, Sainsbury’s and TK Maxx, have withdrawn from the scheme.