B&Q has withdrawn an advertisement for jobs at its Swindon warehouse that required jobseekers to work three days’ “induction” for free and pay for a drugs test.
The ad for order-pickers offered to pay between £7.50 and £8 an hour depending on the time of day. It said: “Each candidate will undergo three-day induction programme which will be unpaid.” It also said candidates must pay £15 to take a drugs test, with the money refunded if they passed the test.
After being alerted to the advert by the Guardian, B&Q said it was contrary to the company’s recruitment policy and that it had asked for it to be removed. The DIY chain is part of Kingfisher, a FTSE 100 company.
The ad raises further questions about the treatment of low-paid workers by large companies. It follows the Guardian’s exposure of Sports Direct for effectively paying below the minimum wage by requiring staff at its warehouse to go through lengthy security checks without pay. Sports Direct has since started paying workers for this time.
It also highlights the convoluted chain of firms often involved in hiring workers for basic jobs. The distribution centre is run for B&Q by Wincanton, a publicly quoted warehouse and supply chain operator, which used an employment agency to recruit staff. The ad was then sent to jobseekers by Seetec, which works for the government to get the unemployed back to work – raising the prospect of vulnerable people feeling under pressure to work for nothing.
A B&Q spokesperson said: “We were unaware of this advert and these terms and conditions are in no way reflective of our standard policy. We are working with Wincanton to have this advert removed immediately and to ensure our standard policy is followed for payment and recruitment of staff.”
Wincanton declined to say if workers at Swindon or any of its sites had been asked to attend the induction without pay and would not give details of its recruitment standards. It also declined to clarify whether applicants were meant to attend the unpaid induction before or after they were offered a job.
A Wincanton spokesperson said: “Wincanton manages B&Q’s Swindon distribution centre, where we work with a recruitment agency. We were unaware of this advert, which has been removed. We have been working closely with B&Q and the agency in question to ensure that our policy is followed for payment and recruitment of staff.”
Nick Fry, an employment specialist at law firm Bindmans, said the terms advertised appeared unusual and that the law said workers should be paid for the work they do. He said: “An induction is usually carried out after a person has been taken on to do the job and it’s paid. This job advert suggests they are going to do the induction and then offer the employment contract afterwards. The induction seems to be part of the recruitment stage. Generally speaking, workers should be paid for days worked, under their employment contract. If there’s an oral or written contract in place and the employment has started, they should be paid.”
The ad originated with GB Recruitment, an agency in Newport, Wales. Darren Bourne, one of the contacts listed at GB, said candidates would not be paid “as such” and that if they were sent for training by a jobcentre they would not expect to be paid. Bourne did not reply to attempts to find out more information.
Seetec administers government-funded schemes for the Department for Work and Pensions to get unemployed people back into work. A spokeswoman for Seetec said the company’s role is to draw clients’ attention to job vacancies, though she acknowledged it had a responsibility to check that terms and conditions were fair.
B&Q is already the subject of an online petition against its plan to cut Sunday pay and reduce bank holiday rates for some shop workers in return for lifting minimum basic wages above the government’s “national living wage”.
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