There has recently been a lot of talk about making work pay but most of the speakers and indeed the media reporters seem to miss the biggest reason why work doesn’t pay.
When someone is working part-time and claiming benefits to top up their income they are only allowed to keep £5 of their earnings before the benefits are withdrawn pound for pound. To my knowledge, this amount has not changed since at least 1983 and probably much earlier. Presumably this was originally intended to cover their travel costs to and from work, but 1983 was 30 YEARS AGO. How much have bus fares risen in the last 30 years?
This now means they are not even allowed to work one hour at minimum wage before their benefit is clawed back, yet they are expected to be prepared to travel for up to an hour and a half for work. The costs of travelling such a distance could take most of their wages, let alone the pittance they are allowed to gain, and leave them well out of pocket.
I can understand that as travel costs are variable they are seen as the responsibility of the employee, but come on, why would anyone in their right minds take a job that will leave them drastically worse off due to transport costs?
George Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith & Co. in their ivory towers don’t seem to realise that it costs money – and often quite a big percentage of benefit money to travel to a job – as they swan around in their cars. Perhaps they think we lesser mortals can sprout wings and fly to our places of work.
Unless and until the issue of transport costs is taken into consideration alongside benefit withdrawal rates it is never going to pay to work part-time, yet at the moment part-time is all many people can find. This can sometimes be a stepping stone to full-time work, depending on the company, but not if you can’t afford to start work in the first place!
Why are there so many part-time jobs?
Of course there are all sorts of explanations for part-time work being offered, keeping costs down, targeting the work force numbers to the busy times, etc. However, there is also a new excuse. Since the employers share of pension contributions for their employees has risen and become compulsory for certain levels of work, it has become more cost effective to businesses to cut all hours to part-time, below the thresh-hold where they have to pay the compulsory contributions. Two part-timers may now be working the hours that used to be one full-time post, but the employer avoids paying the pension contribution.
This isn’t helping employees build up their pension-pot but many employers don’t care about that, as long as they keep their costs down. With the current government threatening to sanction part-time workers for not working enough hours, once again the workers are being penalised for the actions of their bosses.
See also: Has Capitalism Gone Too Far?
Too Poor to Get a Job?
Cutbacks have consequences – especially for the poor. Is this present government, in its relentless attack on the poorest in society, shooting itself in the foot when it comes to the stated aim of trying to get people back to work?
If someone has been out of work for a long time and dependent on benefits they are less likely to be able to afford:
- Suitable clothes for the working environment
- Regular haircuts
- Suitable footwear for work
- Travel costs
- All sorts of extra expenses connected with working
Work would also leave them much less time for making the economies that may still be needed in low-wage Britain.
If the unemployed/ under-employed are too poor to be able to present themselves properly at interview, they are unlikely to be offered the job in many instances – especially if it is a customer-facing job.
If the person concerned is in receipt of jobseekers allowance, they may be given enough money to enable them to travel to interview, (or at least that used to be the case, if it hasn’t been another victim of the cuts) but if they are offered a job at a distance from home, how doe they pay for their travel costs until their first monthly pay? In some cases, I have known the first pay packet to be simply a token amount and there was a wait of seven weeks before the first full pay was received. How is anyone supposed to survive that long?
Still penalised for working
Part of the government’s thinking on Universal Credit (UC) was that being paid monthly would supposedly make the transition between unemployment and work easier, but if that monthly UC payment is not enough to cover the travel expenses as well as everything else, people will fall behind with other bills, because they are taking a job.
The more the income of the poor is reduced, the less the chances they will be able to obtain or keep a job. If the government goes ahead and sanctions part-time workers for not working enough hours, even through their housing benefit, they may find some people will be too poor to attend their work, as the natural inclination may be to shift money around to keep a roof over their heads, which may in turn leave no money for travel to work. If they go without food to find the fares, they may not be in a fit state to work – especially if they operate machinery or drive as part of their job.
If the most of the country – including many children – can see the problems that are likely to occur with the proposed plans, why can these idiots in government not recognise them?
At one time Iain Duncan Smith talked about allowing benefit claimants to be able to keep more of their benefits – up to 35 per cent. That made sense to many people who have been there in that situation. However, this has not been mentioned for quite some time. It seems that George Osborne has not only over-ruled Iain Duncan Smith on certain points (or so it is rumoured) but has virtually taken over his job. Is it just me, or is the expression on George’s face, when he makes these announcements about cuts and sanctions, becoming increasingly fanatical?
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when in office, were always very cautious about the possibility of creating an underclass in our society that might rise up and cause trouble. The current government seem to have made it their number one priority to turn all the lower classes into starving peasants and slaves, grovelling for food and shelter.
No wonder they want to take us out of the jurisdiction of the European Human Rights Act. They clearly don’t believe the poor deserve any human rights. Voters beware! (And don’t trust UKIP either, as they are even further to the right than this shower.)
What do you think?
- Richard Godwin: ‘Stupid’ Iain Duncan Smith is preferable to ‘nasty’ George Osborne (standard.co.uk)
- Inside the Coalition: Iain Duncan Smith was ‘not clever enough’ claimed Osborne (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Benefits cap now fully in place’, says Iain Duncan Smith (express.co.uk)
- Why Iain Duncan Smith is no longer a quiet man but a dangerous one | Marina Hyde (theguardian.com)
- Iain Duncan Smith had an epiphany, and it meant nothing (newstatesman.com)
- Jobless ‘To Do Unpaid Work’ Or Lose Benefits (news.sky.com)
- Controversial benefits cap now in place across the country, says Iain Duncan Smith (standard.co.uk)
- Minister looking at making it harder for sick and disabled to claim benefits (theguardian.com)