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sector based work academy scheme: proactive or “slave labour”?

23 February 2012

In November 2011 Nick Clegg announced plans to address unemployment. It was launched partly due to concerns over youth unemployment reaching over 1 million.

The voluntary scheme lets those on unemployment benefit work for a period of up to 8 weeks without losing payments. Controversy centres around the lack of additional payment, or offer of a permanent role and the threat that participants potentially risk losing their benefits if they do not complete the scheme.

The accusation is that businesses are using young workers as cheap labour. Now, several large retail sector players have pulled out, whilst Tesco have written to the DWP to query whether the risk of losing benefits should be removed so as to avoid any confusion over whether the scheme is voluntary or not.

The government has been quick to defend the scheme, stating that 50% of those on the scheme had found permanent employment, but as public pressure increases and more businesses pull out, the future of the scheme remains to be seen…

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