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Jobcentre Plus

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance is given to Job Centres on responding to those seeking to advertise vacancies for jobs in the so-called sex industry; and if he will make a statement. (203724)

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Leslie Strathie, dated 7 May 2008:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about the guidance given to Jobcentre Plus staff when responding to employers seeking to advertise vacancies in the so-called sex industry. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Jobcentre Plus is obliged to provide a free public employment service to help people seeking work and employers fill their vacancies. As part of this, Jobcentre Plus advertises all kinds of vacancies, including those from within the adult entertainment industry, provided they comply with civil and criminal law. To refuse to advertise vacancies that comply with civil and criminal law would place us at significant risk of legal challenge. To put this in context, adult entertainment vacancies make up less than 0.016% of all vacancies advertised by Jobcentre Plus.

Having said that, we recognise the sensitivities associated with working in the adult entertainment industry and have put in place a number of safeguards all of which are detailed in staff guidance to make sure customers are completely aware of the nature of specific vacancies and are able to make fully informed decisions about the suitability of a particular job. These include:

a strap line on the vacancy, stating it is unsuitable for people under the age of 18;

a detailed description of the vacancy and associated activities;

discussing these vacancies only with people who enquire about them or who have been employed previously within the industry; and

not obliging anyone to enquire about or apply for these type of vacancies (anyone is free to refuse to consider them without implications for their benefit).

These safeguards were strengthened recently by some additional checks for employers notifying vacancies where physical contact might be involved, for example escort work and working in a massage parlour or a sauna, to ensure that it is not of a sexual nature. These additional checks are as follows:

before a vacancy is advertised, employers must complete and return a statement, confirming the vacancy does not involve contact of a sexual nature;

once advertised, Jobcentre Plus will, as part of a routine 48-hour courtesy call to employers, confirm nothing illegal was subsequently found to be part of the job requirements;

Jobcentre Plus contacts people it knows have applied for such vacancies to see if anything illegal was subsequently found to be part of the job requirements;

the service is withdrawn from any employer and we will inform the police if we believe the employer is involved in the provision of an illegal service.

In addition to the above, if we receive a complaint from a jobseeker about the activities they have been asked to undertake, no further vacancies are accepted until an investigation into the exact nature of the work has been carried out. If it were found that an employer was involved in the provision of illegal activities, we would withdraw the service.

We take every care to make sure the vacancies we handle meet appropriate legal standards. Without a clear reason to believe a particular employer is engaged in anything unlawful, we are not able to refuse to handle their vacancies.