Mandatory workfare


There are numerous mandatory workfare or “back to work” schemes, which require people to participate in designated work activity or risk losing their benefits. See the excellent Boycott Workfare website for more on these schemes, as well as information on so-called “traineeships” and “work experience”, which can also lead to sanctions.

  • Mandatory Work Activity: mandates four weeks’ unpaid work for up to 30 hours a week. 
  • Community Work Placements (Help to Work): From April 2014, people who return to the jobcentre after the Work Programme are faced with the Help to Work scheme, which includes daily sign-ons at the jobcentre, “intensive training”, or six-month long workfare placements. 


In 2013 the courts found that two of the government’s unpaid back to work schemes were legally flawed. The government rushed through legislation to avoid having to pay rebates to affected benefit claimants. Labour drew much criticism for abstaining from voting on the rushed legislation 

Groups like Boycott Workfare have fought the work programme and mandatory workfare/“back to work” schemes. Campaigning against workfare has been successful, with some organisations pulling out of workfare schemes.

It appears that the community work placements scheme – announced with great fanfare by the government – has failed to launch in reality because hundreds of organisations have pledged against participating in the community work placement workfare element. Then, in July 2014, lawyers successfully challenged the legislation rushed through by the government after those welfare-to-work schemes were ruled flawed.

The Guardian reported that: “The government could have to pay out up to £130m to claimants of jobseeker's allowance after the high court ruled on Friday that emergency laws introduced to shore up back-to-work schemes were incompatible with European law”, and that the DWP planned to appeal that judgement.


Back-to-work scheme breached laws, says Court of Appeal
The government's back-to-work schemes have suffered a setback after Appeal Court judges agreed with a university graduate's claim that certain unpaid schemes were legally flawed – BBC.

Boycott Workfare
UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare.

Court rules back-to-work legislation incompatible with European law
Guardian report on the DWP's decision to appeal against judgement on emergency legislation that was introduced after previous ruling against welfare schemes.

Disability Benefits and Support
The Disability Benefits and Support section of this website shows how disability benefits overlap with and are affected by unemployment benefits and sanctions. 

Flagship workfare scheme launch is delayed again following widespread voluntary sector opposition
Report from Keep Volunteering Voluntary, on the failure of the Community Work Placements scheme to launch.