I recently started a work experience placement at Poundland on the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP’) say so. My work coach at the Job Centre Plus (JCP) told me it was a good way to get work experience and skills.

I then discovered that I was being paid only slightly more than £2 per hour by the JCP for the work I was doing which is definitely lower than the minimum wage for my age group (as of April 2017 this is £5.60). I’ll use rough numbers to keep this easy. I get around £250 a month in Universal Credit payments and am expected to work for 30 hours a week, four weeks in a month, 30×4=120. 250/120=2.08=£2.08.

Work experience is free, isn’t it? Voluntary? No, its not, not at my JCP anyway. What they have done is bound my Universal Credit payments to my turning up for work experience meaning that if I miss a day then I lose money, making the roughly £250 that I get each month my pay for work.

The minimum wage system was put into place to ensure that people could afford to live in a situation that was not akin to slavery. Some people don’t feel that the minimum wage is anywhere near enough to achieve that goal and I, working under the pay of the DWP, a government branch am on less than half of what I should be.

I don’t blame Poundland for the bad payment, I blame Poundland for the bad work experience but that’s a separate issue. I blame the DWP and their ability to dodge the legal minimum wage by claiming something was volunteer but giving no way out unless you pay their ransom of all the Universal Credit payments you’re getting. The government, especially the DWP is supposed to have a focus on underpaid workers, shutting down companies and imprisoning business owners who won’t pay minimum wage but then they follow the same practice of not paying properly themselves.

If Poundland had hired me for only £2.08 an hour they would have felt a strong sharp smack from the long arm of the law but the DWP is technically the law so can do whatever it wants. I spoke to someone at the JCP about raising my payment and was told I’m getting all I am entitled to, he wouldn’t let me argue and ended up forcing me to sign a sheet saying they would withhold Universal Credits if I didn’t attend six weeks at the work experience.

I feel that it is a really serious issue being paid so little and being forced to work so long for this pittance. I believe that as I am unemployed, have little experience so can’t get taken on and have no other source of income I am being exploited by the DWP with the low payments. This needs to be known and hopefully, the wider this is spread, this situation won’t happen again in future.

Please share this on, especially if you’re from the UK or know someone who is going through a similar thing.

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