Prohibition for zero wage workfare, internships and work experience of more than 4 weeks?

Conservative Lord Holmes of Richmond has introduced a Private Members’ Bill (Starting in the House of Lords) to prohibit zero wage work experience (WE) for a continuous or non-continuous period which exceeds four weeks.

[Related: Social Mobility Commission seeks to ban unpaid work, but totally ignores zero wage #workfare]


But what about the Bill’s definition of “work experience”?

“work experience” means observing, replicating, assisting with
5and carrying out any task with the aim of gaining experience of
a particular workplace, organisation, industry or work-related

The definition usefully adds the term “work-related activity”, which could curtail the use of “unpaid and unlimited” “work experience or a work placement” (workfare) for sick and disabled people legislated for in Section 55 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.


On the pedantic front the term “work placement“, which is missing from the Bill, tends to be used by the DWP to refer to compulsory forced-labour zero wage “work for your benefit” “community benefit” work placements (workfare). Such as with the current Youth Obligation, Work Programme and Work and Health Programme schemes.

So therefore, the Bill’s failure to use the term “work placement” as part of it’s definition of work experience, means forced-labour workfare conscription remains untouched, including “unpaid and unlimited” for sick and disabled people?

Work placement (community benefit)
95. When a LTU participant is undertaking community benefit work placements they will have been mandated to do so using the normal mandation process. If they fail to take part in community benefit work placement you must take compliance doubt action“ (emphasis added)
Work and Health Programme – Provider Guidance – Chapter 8 – Compliance Doubt
(concerning benefit sanctions)

Youth Obligation work experience 

Don’t forget the Private Members’ National Minimum Wage (Workplace Internships) Bill 2016-17 (Ballot Bill) was abandoned due to the June 8th 2017 snap General Election. And 3 months of forced-labour “work for your benefit” workfare is called “guaranteed work experience“, for 18 to 21 year olds on the DWP Youth Obligation benefit scheme.

Traineeship work experience 

The DWP/Jobcentre ‘voluntary’ “work for your benefit” traineeships (work experience), can last up to 6 months and for 18 to 24 year olds on £57.90 a week Jobseekers Allowance that’s £1.65 an hour for a 35 hour week.

Find a traineeship
” It can last up to 6 months…You won’t be paid…”


Social class and the elephant

Put crudely, internship is a term associated to young ‘middle-class‘ doing work experience funded by the bank of mum and dad. So maybe it is reasonable to consider 6 month unpaid traineeships for unemployed are aimed at the ‘working-class‘? Therefore with all this talk of social mobility, why does this Bill and by default the Social Mobility Commission completely ignore all the zero wage “work for your benefit” only workfare schemes? Workfare is the elephant that crushes the working class, whilst the middle class merely move out of  the elephants way via Mum and Dad, supported by this Bill and the Commission?

What of prisonfare?

“The work carried out by detainees includes kitchen tasks, cleaning toilets and showers, and litter picking. They are paid £1 per hour, though for some projects this rises to £1.25 per hour.

Prisoners are paid around 20p per hour for work done as part of their rehabilitation”
Source: Guardian – Immigration detainees bring legal challenge against £1 an hour ‘slave’ wages 28/6/17

Four weeks?

Don’t forget one of the most hated forms of forced-labour was DWP’s 4 week Mandatory Work Activity, introduced during the Tory and Lib Dem 2010-15 coalition. And it was Labour who started “Work for your benefit” workfare under the Welfare Reform Act 2009 and included Mandatory Work Related Activity workfare in it’s Flexible New Deal (FND) scheme. Boycott Workfare was founded in 2010 to campaign against all forms of workfare and specifically FND’s minimum 4 week forced-labour workfare.

So for workfare and prisonfare, “Who is speaking up for disempowered and marginalised people, including the young, disabled and unemployed?”

16 weeks of unpaid ‘training’

Would this Bill capture this developing area of unpaid work?


The company charges fees so graduates can undertake ‘training’, by working on live digital marketing projects for employers for zer0 wages.

Welfare Reform

Section 16 Work preparation requirement
(3) (e) undertaking work experience or a work placement
Welfare Reform Act (2012)

Section 55
“Section 55 amends section 13 of WRA 2007 to make clear that a claimant with limited capability for work may be required to undertake work experience or a work placement. Any requirement imposed under this provision will need to be reasonable in the claimant’s circumstances”
Welfare Reform Act (2012) – Explanatory notes

At poundstretcher everything’s worth a pound, except you..

Workfare definitions

Boycott Workfare – “a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare” (website) – “Campaign to abolish forced unpaid labour” (twitter)

Keep Volunteering VoluntaryKeep Volunteering Voluntary – “Workfare is the name given to government schemes where unemployed and disabled people have to work in return for their benefits.” (website) – “Keep it Voluntary Promoting the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement in the voluntary sector. For volunteering, against workfare” (twitter)

Welfare Reform Act (2009)
“Work for your benefit” schemes etc.

Welfare Reform Act (2012) – Universal Credit
Section 16 Work preparation requirement

(3) (e) undertaking work experience or a work placement

Charter Against Workfare: A Statement of Principles

For any workplace based scheme for benefit claimants

“First, it must be entirely voluntary.

Secondly, there should be real training so that people go away at the end with skills that are relevant to their future employment prospects.

Thirdly, those concerned must have employee status so that they are protected by health and safety and equal opportunities legislation.

Fourthly, they must be paid the rate for the job—not benefit-plus—and,

finally, projects must have trade union approval.”

Hansard: Clare Short MP – 14th December 1987

Workfare States

“Contemporary workfare policies rarely involve job creation on any significant scale, along the lines of the old-fashioned public-works programs; they are more concerned with deterring welfare claims and necessitating the acceptance of low-paid, unstable jobs in the context of increasingly “flexible” labour markets. Stripped down to it’s labour-regulatory essence, workfare is not about creating jobs for people that don’t have them; it is about creating workers for jobs that nobody wants. In a Foucauldian sense, it is seeking to make “docile bodies” for the new economy: flexible, self-reliant and self-disciplining”

Jamie Peck in Workfare States (2001)