I was walking along Penryn’s Commercial Road today when, passing the jobcenter, I stopped to have a look in the window at the vacancies which were hung like bunting between festive Christmas stockings. What a nice touch, I thought, and wondering what passes for a job these days, like a child peering into a sweet shop, pressed my nose to the glass. And saw this.
It’s hard to see unless you click on the image, so I’ll replicate the words of the job ad here:
We are looking for a person to manage our busy charity shop at Ponsharden, Falmouth. Work is available for 16 hours per week, possibly more for the right applicant. You will be expected to volunteer for one day per week. If you are interested please apply by phoning Janette…”
At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but yes, there it was in blue and black: For the privilege of being offered two days paid work at Pants charity shop, you’d have to work one extra day for free. Yes – FOR FREE
Wow – what a great deal. I happen to have met Janette of the Pants charity, and can tell you that she comes across as a lovely lady. And Pants itself is a great local charity that helps in the struggle against cancers of the areas normally covered by your underpants. Clearly Janette doesn’t see the mistake she’s made here. But anyone who accepts these terms is allowing themselves to be hung out to dry and, charity or not, this is totally unacceptable.
A person who works for an organisation can also volunteer for the same organisation, but according to Volunteering England: “The volunteer role should be substantially different to the paid role otherwise the working time directive and minimum wage legislation could be applied.”
But required to volunteer as a precondition for an offer of employment? Illegal surely?
Obviously Pants haven’t thought through the implications of their job advert – or have they? Maybe think it’s OK to take advantage of someone so desperate for a job, they’ll even work for free. To require, explicitly or implicitly, that a paid employee also give their time for nothing is clearly outrageous, but though it’s quite shocking to think that anyone could believe this to be acceptable, I reserve even more contempt for the jobcentre.
Obviously I couldn’t just walk away…
No – I went in and asked the young woman working there how this advert could have passed their beady, employment law-savvy eye. But no. She had no idea.
“Well it’s a charity.”
“Really? And you think that makes it OK?”
Saliva dripped from her bottom lip.
To be fair to her, she was probably an underpaid minion herself, though I’m sure if you were unfortunate enough to be unemployed, and you happened to be late signing-on because you passed out from starvation twice on your way to your appointment, you’d find her well up on the law pertaining to the sanctioning of benefits. Needless to say I’ll be following up on all this, blast the lot of them.