A city MP is investigating claims that an unemployed single mother was forced by Jobcentre staff to work for six weeks in a telesales job for which she was paid just £60.
Yardley Liberal Democrat member John Hemming said he was particularly concerned at claims that even though concerns were raised about the company by job seekers, roles were repeatedly advertised in the direct.gov website.
The woman from Sheldon, who has since found a job, spoke confidentially to the Post, and revealed she was left destitute and relying on handouts and even a trip to the foodbank to feed herself and her eight-year-old daughter.
A committee of MPs accused the Jobcentre service of being more interested in getting people off benefits than finding them genuine employment.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “I worked six weeks, 25 hours a week, and didn’t get paid. They gave us some money in the first week – I think that was to stop us leaving on the spot and keep us hoping we would get paid. When I went back to the Jobcentre all they said was that if I resigned I would not be eligible for benefits for six months, so I had to stick it out.”
It was the second time the woman had been told to take a dodgy job. She spent two weeks in another sales position from which she was sacked for declaring her income to the taxman.
“I was told it was a cash-in-hand job,” she said. “I just don’t think the Jobcentre, especially when they have been warned, should be sending people to work for corrupt employers.”
The employees have not been named and it is believed one of the telecom companies has folded.
Her MP, John Hemming, is now calling for greater oversight of the roles advertised to ensure other job hunters are not ripped off.
He said: “There are two things this raises. One is that when the department receives a complaint that people have not been paid they should take the advert off the system and not put it back until they have investigated what is going on.” He said that some employers simply post a fresh advert if one is taken down and this is not always picked up.
“They should also ban the employer from posting another job,” he added. “The Government website should be advertising only legitimate jobs that pay at least the minimum wage.”
Mr Hemming has written to the Department For Work and Pensions and wants to table a House of Commons motion calling for an overhaul of the jobs system.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said that while the onus is on employers not to post scam adverts there are robust complaints systems in place.
She said: “Whilst Universal Jobmatch is a self-service job posting and matching service, with the onus being upon the employer/agency to conform to the terms and conditions, a number of checks are undertaken by Monster [online jobs agency] to reduce the risk, from scams and bogus employers to jobseekers.
“Alongside this, DWP has a robust company complaints process in place to ensure that any complaints made about jobs, being advertised through Universal Jobmatch, are fully investigated. Where appropriate, service to the employer may be permanently withdrawn. Should service be removed, action will be taken to help ensure that the employer cannot use the Universal Jobmatch service in the future.”
The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has now ordered the Jobcentre Plus network to change a key target from getting people off benefits, to helping people into paid work.