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Concern over zero-hours contracts for jobseekers

File photo of a Job Centre Plus branch Credit: PA Images

Jobseekers could face temporary benefits bans if they refuse to accept some forms of zero-hour contracts under welfare reforms from the coalition government.

Claimants risk losing payments for more than three months if they fail to accept certain positions on such terms as part of the new universal credit system.

Employment minister Esther McVey outlined the change in a letter to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore in an exchange about benefits sanctions, according to the Guardian.

Jobcentre "coaches" will be able to "mandate to zero-hours contracts" if they consider the role is suitable for a claimant, the letter added.

New jobseeker 'Claimant Commitment' rolled out

A new 'Claimant Commitment' setting out what jobseekers must do to find work in return for benefits have been successfully rolled out across the country.

Claimants will have have to register to look for work if they expect to continue to receive benefits. Credit: PA

The Department for Work and Pensions said the agreements had now been adopted in every UK jobcentre, with jobseekers agreeing to take steps to find work or face having their benefits docked.

Among the measures are registering to look for work through the universal jobmatch service or via a recruitment agency.

Jobseekers who fail to follow through with the commitment risk having their benefits docked.

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Support for young people seeking apprenticeships

Jobseekers aged 18-21 will be required to start traineeships or work experience. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Funding for Jobcentres to support 16 and 17-year-olds in finding apprenticeship or traineeship.

Requirement for job seekers aged 18 to 21 to start traineeship, work experience or community work after six months or lose their benefits.

Govt: Benefits penalty if people fail to play by rules

This Government has always been clear that, in return for claiming unemployment benefits, jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work. We are ending the something-for-nothing culture.

People who are in a job know that if they don't play by the rules or fail to turn up in the morning, there might be consequences, so it's only right that people on benefits should have similar responsibilities.

We always make the rules very clear - it's only right that there is a penalty if people fail to play by them.

– Employment Minister Esther McVey

Rise in jobseekers who have had benefits cut

The number of benefit payments suspended since a tougher regime was introduced last year has risen by 11%, the Department for Work and Pensions said.

Benefit payments were suspended nearly 600,000 times. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Jobseeker's allowance claimants who failed to do enough to find work, turned down jobs or have not turned up to appointments had their payments suspended 580,000 times between October 2012 and June, new figures showed.

Around 400,000 people were involved - with some having their benefits suspended more than once.

The most common reason for a sanction was a failure to actively look for work.

Report: Jews denied benefits over Saturday work

The Government is investigating claims that unemployed Jewish people have been denied benefits because they cannot work on Saturdays, the Times (£) has reported.

According to the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, staff in job centres in the north-west said it was their policy to require people to be available for some Saturday work.

Some Jewish jobseekers were reportedly classified as having “availability doubts” Credit: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

The Times said the problem appeared to arise when claimants were interested in jobs in retail, and may have affected by about a dozen Jewish jobseekers.

The paper said one Orthodox Jewish man was denied jobseeker’s allowance for more than six months, before being reimbursed in a tribunal.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman reportedly said no jobseeker should "compromise their religious practices in order to claim JSA”, adding that an investigation was being conducted.

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Legislation blocking jobseeker payouts clears Lords

The House of Lords Credit: PA Wire/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Emergency legislation blocking up to £130 million in compensation payouts to jobseekers finally cleared the Lords early today and is set to become law.

In a late-night sitting that ended at around 1:30 am, peers completed all the remaining stages of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill, which has already been fast-tracked through the Commons.

The Government was forced to keep more than 100 of its supporters back as Labour critics forced unsuccessful votes on the controversial legislation in an 11 hour sitting of the Upper House.

If the Bill had been amended it would have had to return to the Commons - creating difficulties for its legislative timetable ahead of Easter recess.