“Asda workfare reference didn’t even get my gender right,” says young jobseeker

SHODDY LETTER IS A POOR REWARD FOR FIVE WEEKS’ UNPAID LABOUR

A young jobseeker has revealed publicly his reference from supermarket giant Asda, in which the author couldn’t even be bothered to get his gender right. Former music student Joseph Wilson had worked for five weeks unpaid – including night shifts. As he wasn’t offered a job at the end of his placement, this reference was intended as his reward.

Joe showed Channel 4 News what was apparently a template letter written on Asda headed paper. In it, his name had been written in pen in blank spaces provided within the text. The reference read:

“We can confirm that [Joseph] worked for us as a Shopfloor Assistant on a temporary basis for approximately eight weeks. During this time she proved herself / himself to be punctual and hardworking. She / he was a team player but was also able to work using his / her own initiative when required.”

A disappointed Joe said “It would have taken them two minutes [to delete she and put he] and they couldn’t even be bothered to do that.”

The sloppy recommendation was seen as Channel 4 News revealed that Asda is yet another supermarket giant that has been participating in the government’s controversial work experience programme, where young jobseekers work for up to eight weeks unpaid, in supermarkets, discount stores and fast food chains. 

Joe and 11 other jobseekers worked at the Harrogate, North Yorkshire, store during the Christmas rush – and he says that his job centre made clear that the placement was mandatory, not voluntary. “We weren’t asked anything, we weren’t asked, we were told. This is what you’ll be doing,” he said.

And Joe denied that he was just work shadowing, saying:

“We were doing the work itself. For the first week or so I’d have a manager hanging round just to make sure we weren’t doing too badly. After that we were basically doing the work.”

He also said that his paid colleagues were concerned that their hours had been reduced since Asda as a result of him being there:

“At nights when it was quiet and there was no one around to hear it would be like ‘This is rubbish. There’s no overtime and you’re doing our work for us’.”

Graduate Fog has been shocked about many aspects of this controversial work experience programme, which we strongly believe is unhelpful for young jobseekers – and pushes paid work further out of reach for the majority. But the very least these companies – and the government – can do is ensure that every participant receives a decent reference. That they can’t even be bothered to do that speaks volumes.

Want to see the reference for yourself? Click here to view the video

*WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN PLEASED WITH THAT REFERENCE?
Is it further proof that the work experience is a bad deal for young jobseekers? And do you blame the government – or the companies themselves?

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