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Job Seekers Allowance Survival Guide
intro l leaving work & signing on l active signing l restarts/interviews l feedback/help


Job refusals
Notified vacancies
Creative job search
Employment agencies


When you first sign on you can look for work in your usual occupation for up to 13 weeks - unless you are a school leaver; have never worked before or your trade no longer exists.

You don't have to justify refusing a job of less than 24 hours every week and they do not count as "Notified Vacancies". But under the JSA they can order you to apply for these by issuing a Job Seekers Direction. If you don't apply you get treated as having refused a Direction. But if you apply and are offered the job you can't be sanctioned for refusing to take it. Sounds odd but the thing is people signing on are agreeing to look for full time work not part time work. If the job offers less than 24 hours each week you can refuse it.

You are not obliged to apply for jobs you have found in your job seeking activity, i.e. from the papers, by asking around or off the Job Centre boards. But if they know you've applied for and been offered a job and then refused it, they can argue that you are refusing suitable employment and may offer you the job as a "Notified Vacancy". Also, if you ask about a Job at the Job Centre it gets put on the computer and they can treat it as a Notified Vacancy.


- this is when Employment Service staff tell you to apply for a specific job. It is not the same as a Job Seekers Direction. Be warned that just enquiring at the desks about a job off the boards could be treated as a Notified Vacancy if they consider it's reasonable employment for you. If you refuse to apply for a Notified Vacancy you could face up to 6 months without benefit - unless you can show either:

That you don't have the required skills and qualifications, or : That you have good cause (see below).

A Notified Vacancy MUST be a job offering more than 24 hours pw (for ones under 24 hours they can only issue a Job Seekers Direction - see above). A Notified Vacancy MUST be one that it is reasonable to expect you to do, but should also reflect conditions generally available locally. ES Advisers should always offer those vacancies with highest rates of pay for that type of work before offering one that pays less. Also the Employment Service should not handle jobs or expect you to apply for / take jobs : which involve sexual or racial discrimination; where the premises raise doubts under the Health & Safety Act; where claimants' complaints suggest that it might be "doubtful, undesirable or not genuine." Undesirability can include: allegations of unfair dismissal; non-payment of wages or expenses; sexual harassment, misrepresentation of pay and conditions and oppressive contracts of employment.

They MUST tell you that they are offering you a Notified Vacancy and that there are penalties for refusing to apply for it.

You can refuse a Notified Vacancy with "Good Cause" if you refuse:

To be a scab provided that the specific vacancy is one caused by the dispute.

On religious or conscientious grounds, which can include:

Objecting to not being a member of a trade union in a work place where non membership is a condition of employment

Objecting to work with material which may be used for the destruction of human life

Working in abattoirs etc.

On health grounds eg. "excessive physical or mental stress"

Due to excessive travelling time to work (more than one hour each way)

If the job's hours and days of working differ significantly from those set out in your Job Seekers Agreement.

You can't refuse to apply for a job because it is badly paid!!


If you have to apply for a job you don't want, don't despair.

Remember - there are probably loads of other people going for the same job, several of whom will be better suited for it and actually want it.

You're the one who fills in the application form. If you don't want the job make sure your application is nondescript or contains information about your work history or references that will put the employer off interviewing or hiring you.

If you get an interview be equally (un)imaginative. Ask employers which union represents their workforce and whether they would object to you joining it, or, if there isn't one, starting one up. Also ensure, for your own well being, that Health & Safety is up to scratch.

Above all, go out of your way to make sure the employer realises exactly what sort of a person you are and the kind of benefit they could expect for their business by employing you.

Take care : under JSA and especially with Job Seekers Directives the Employment Service can say that you deliberately spoilt your chances of getting a job by:

Deliberately writing a crap application

Making unreasonable conditions for accepting a job

Creating an unfavourable impression at interview by being deliberately aggressive, obstructive, apathetic or drunk

Refusing to give references

Delaying acceptance of job if offered.

Remember - they have to prove that you spoilt your chances. So be subtle. If they do treat you as actively refusing they will ask you to complete a form writing down your reasons for refusal. You don't have to complete it there and then, you have a month to return it. Get advice before filling it in.



For some people employment agencies are a good route to work. But there are real problems with them. They are used by employers to get casual labour rather than having a permanent workforce with rights and the possibility of organising against exploitation. They usually offer lower pay than the going rate. They are used for strike breaking. Above all, for many unskilled workers, you get a few days work with no prospect of secure employment and then you're dumped back on the dole and have to go through all the hassle of sorting out a giro etc.

Under JSA there may be more pressure put on people to register with Employment Agencies, either through the Job Seekers Agreement or by way of a Job Seekers Direction. Resist this using the arguments above, especially for your JSA Agreement. If you are ordered to register with one under a Direction, even after arguing against it, you have to do it. But remember you don't have to accept any job that offers less than 24 hours work pw. So if you're offered 3 days work this week you can refuse it because there is no guarantee of work next week etc. For temporary jobs offering more than 24 hours where the work is guaranteed for an extended period, see CAN I REFUSE TO APPLY FOR A JOB? and CREATIVE JOB SEARCH.


EMPLOYMENT ON TRIAL - After being unemployed for 13 weeks, you can take a full time job (over 16 hours) and leave after 4 and before 12 calendar weeks - THEY CAN'T TREAT YOU AS VOLUNTARILY LEAVING WORK!

Otherwise - well, they've made you into a wage slave, we recommend you pay them back any way you can. Organise, agitate, disrupt - its still a Class War!

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