Sunday, 3 June 2012

Morale at an all-time low

It may be a holiday weekend, but for many A4e staff it's a gloomy one.  Some left work on Friday in the knowledge that the bonuses they expected to be paid this month have been cancelled.  Managers have been receiving up to 20% of their pay as financial performance bonuses for the previous year.  Last year's would have included 6 months of dual WP / FND work, and since FND was described by one employee as a "cash cow", the cancellation of the bonuses represents a significant loss.  They've also been told that anyone earning £26k pa or more will not be getting a pay increase.  Those earning less than £26k will get a 1% rise.  This comes on top of the news that Emma Harrison took £8.6 million out of the company last year.
Many staff report that they are unhappy for other reasons.  They were supposed to be dealing with caseloads of no more than 80, but some have upwards of 200 clients, so the amount of "tailored support" they can give is limited.  Tensions are high in some offices.  The system of referring people for "sanctions" (taking away their income) results in mistakes, and staff are having to confront some very angry clients.  
Staff turnover has always been high in A4e, and some say that it is only limited now by the lack of opportunity to move elsewhere.  But morale is reported to be at an all-time low.
(Don't bother posting comments attacking staff - they won't be published.)

This comes at a time when, as the Telegraph reports, the DWP has told Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, that it won't be publishing details of the 115 cases of potential fraud which don't involve A4e.  The "public interest" argument isn't strong enough, they say.


  1. Your piece above sums up the general feeling at A4e perfectly.

    The increase in pay of 1% is actually a 0.5% increase in real terms as it is not being introduced until October.

  2. The "public interest" argument isn't strong enough, they say.

    Well, they would say that wouldn't they?

    (My excuses to Mandy Rice-Davies).

    The DWP defence is rapidly descending into farce.

  3. This explains the lethargic mood I picked up on on my last visit to a4e, my "advisor" made some very telling comments about her attitude towards her employers, very out of character, but after reading this, very understandable.

    I still find it hard to summon any kind of sympathy for people who choose to work in these systems (and agencies in general).
    I am now forced to attend the weekly "Jobclub" a totally pointless waste of time, as my advisor agreed, but due to pressure for figures and results it was inevitable.
    After a few months on the "scheme" the "One size fits all" approach really kicks in.
    "Tailored Support" doesn't exist anymore (it never really did).

    1. "I still find it hard to summon any kind of sympathy for people who choose to work in these systems (and agencies in general)."
      Most people don't have the luxury of choosing to quit a job when no others are available.

    2. "Most people don't have the luxury of choosing to quit a job when no others are available."

      True, but they make the choice to make profit on the backs of other people, be it a4e or agency's.

      Either way it's a perfect scenario for an "ironic" outcome.

    3. I still disagree. There are many jobs out there which could be said to be profiting off other people. When someone gets a job in w2w they are simply getting a job. They may well have no views on, or knowledge about, the wider implications. And they just want to do the best job they can. I said that A4e has always had a high staff turnover, presumably because people got out when they found it wasn't somewhere they wanted to work. If there's nowhere to go, and you need a job, you stay there.

  4. NoWorkProgramme5 June 2012 at 07:00

    Not the cash cow they were hoping for eh?
    Perhaps employees there should think about more lucrative earning jobs without having to treat their fellow humans like cattle who are only after work.

    And the DWP might think about something completely new and cheaper and a provider-less solution to get people into work: mandatory sign-in jobsearch sessions once per week using local colleges, for example, but the customer does it all for themselves instead of having someone do it for them. That way will reduce fraudulent temptation for providers, because there won't be any.

    1. I think the employees at A4E are taking the only jobs they can get. If there were that many jobs going around we'd all have them.

      And if you had job search sessions at a local college, the college would still have to be paid - a room with computers and telephones would need to be booked and someone would need to be in the room not only to make sure people signed in and did the searching, but also to make sure the computers etc were used as they should be. In some areas this would mean the room being used continuously 5 days a week, as no college has a spare room with as many computers as my local A4E.

      My local college does do job search sessions, but I've never been to them as I go to A4E.

    2. I can see this from both sides. Colleges would love to be paid to have job search on the scale w2w has because colleges would negotiate even more money. Colleges get paid a heck of a lot already. What should happen is a reduction in how much companies get paid. It happened with work based learning recently so it shouldn't be an issue. The w2w providers should then be forced to deliver accredited qualifications (set fee regardless of how long it takes) to people to bring them up to a level ? Standard. I know people in my A4e who are 50 odd and can't read and write which is wrong. Support should be forced by the government on the providers. Those who prove to be above the level should have reduced contact but still have to prove job search like at the jc. Increasing to education levels actually would improve trade links which could create jobs.

    3. NoWorkProgramme5 June 2012 at 16:28

      Be that as it may the chance of fraud will be reduced with no company charging the taxpayer 'a little extra' for situations that aren't exactly bonafide and the jobseeker will search for work at such dedicated places for a fixed fee to the college or institution as compared to what could be creamed off the State by a private provider. And more importantly the jobseeker will do a search for him or herself rather than condescendingly have a provider employee do it for them. It's time people did things for themselves and not a nanny state viz provider or agent of the crown.

    4. Have you both forgotten that before privatisation lots of FE colleges were New Deal providers? And why shouldn't the JCs be able to supply the facilities you describe? Anyway, this is getting off-topic.

    5. NoWorkProgramme6 June 2012 at 04:39

      Job Centres would be good, if they gain the resources needed to host the job search's by a job seeker, no problems with that at all. Savings could be made and an MP would be directly accountable for any misdeeds since JCs are agents of the crown and accountable to the tax payer through parliament. Private company's /charities are less accountable to an MP although Grayling is certainly feeling the heat.
      Colleges were suggested because they have the resources for alternatives despite being providers in their own right, and can help cut down on private company staff numbers tempted to commit fraudulent activities, the temptation will simply be removed if there's reduced staff at a public body like a college or JC.
      More on topic: because the current providers like A4E may be feeling the pinch then temptation of fraud and increased abuse of customers may be a reason to look at alternative solutions, especially from a tax-payer subsidized perspective.

  5. As an A4e employee (not for long I hope) I am disgusted with the company and am also pretty offended at the suggestion that A4e staff treat their customers like cattle...that is a total generalisation and does not apply to every member of staff within the organisation.

    I know of one office who have had written confirmation that they have achieved their bonus and it was due in March. They have been promised it in their pay every month since then and then on payday it has not been there. Regardless of if you agree a bonus should be paid or not I find it completely shocking that the company have confirmed it several times to staff both verbally and in writing and then failed to pay it. I know one member of staff who has had to cancel her honeymoon due to it. Simply unfair, either agree to pay it or not but do not continually promise and then fail to deliver.

    1. And isn't that the problem generally? That these work programmes and their contractors promise results they can never deliver on.

    2. I won't disagree with that, but it's such a huge subject that there are many whys and therefores to your question.

      My point was that as a company they should not be breaking promises to their staff - ignoring for a moment which sector they work in. It's just bad practice

      As for the Work Programme itself, I don't feel the targets are realisticly achievable but they are agreed between the organisation and the DWP, the people who actually DO the job have no say.

  6. I have worked at A4e for 4 (ish) years and have witnessed the steep decline in morale across the business. The comment above about people not being able to jump into something else appears to be true as just about everyone I know is looking for alternative employment.

    It is fair to say that there is a complete lack of leadership amongst most of the SMT, who it would appear have no idea whatsoever how to properly motivate their staff. As the person previously mentioned, promising bonuses and then failing to pay out is the lowest of the low and I think secretly there are a great many staff who hope that we are seeing the end of the company so they can transfer to other providers.

    Perhaps one day I will write a full account on my time at A4e and publish but I had better find another job first as I will probably be enemy number one with all the things I have seen and heard!


    1. Hi there

      I understand your fury completely and I sympathise about that greatly.

      However: don't get mad, get even, as they say.

      Personally, I think the affected staff need independent legal advice about whether or not A4E have acted lawfully. Have they acted in breach of contract in some way? Has their conduct amounted to Constructive Unfair Dismissal of the relevant staff? I don't know the answers myself but a half-capable firm of solicitors would know.

      The CAB might also have valid comments to offer. The CAB Advisers do know their stuff and they also always know the best solicitors in the area for the problem facing the CAB's clients so it is well worth asking the CAB,

      There is nothing to prevent six members of staff, say, from clubbing together and going to see the same solicitor, whose fees could then be split six ways.

      I hope that my comment will be of some help. I am sceptical about the idea that A4E are allowed to treat their staff in the way that has been described so if I were involved, I would want legal advice.

  7. absolute disgrace, 1% in October and increasing targets, something else needed


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