Will taking part in an outplacement programme affect my claim for job seekers allowance?  Is a question we were asked recently by one of our delegates.

Every month our career experts answer a range of queries from job seekers. Keep coming back regularly to see our latest career advice.

“To what extent does the work I am doing on my outplacement programme help me in claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance?  As I am coming to the end of my employment and have no immediate job to go to, is this something I should raise with the JobCentre or will it work against my claim?”

The main objective of an outplacement programme is to get you back to work quickly, so the answer is that it should support and enhance your claim, not work against it.

Job Centres are not all the same, although they do offer a consistent range of services, and most will now set targets for those receiving the Jobseeker’s Allowance aimed at ensuring they are taking action genuinely to find a new job.  Every case is different and some Job Centres will take account of those differences – for example if your job is rare and unusual requiring a very specific skill you are less likely to find a large number of opportunities, whereas if you are looking for a more popular and less skilled job – for example a checkout operator – there are more jobs available to apply for, so your target number of jobs to apply for may be higher.

Your outplacement programme will help you to meet any targets comfortably, the key being to prove that you are genuinely looking for work.  A a big advantage of taking outplacement support is that it gives you a helping hand in making faster progress than is the case for those left to their own devices.  Whilst Job Centres will often offer training in pulling together a CV and preparing for interview, our services are more personalised and tailored, based on years of experience of helping individuals think through what they really want to do, and create then execute a plan to achieve it.  This gets you to a genuinely successful outcome – including taking account of any desire to make a change of career direction – more quickly.

So you should definitely not be coy about stating that you are getting outplacement support, and hopefully it won’t be long before you no longer need to claim the Jobseeker’s Allowance.

“In a recent interview I was quizzed about childcare arrangements for my two young children.  Is this allowed?  I gave an honest response, but for the future would I be justified in declining to answer?”

It is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of personal circumstances – gender, age or family situation – but some jobs do need to know that you can be flexible and there may be particular reasons why having adequate childcare will be an important consideration for an employer.  Usually questions asked seek to discover this when it is an important requirement for the employer, who, in asking the question, should be confident that such questions are a justified and essential element to making a decision for that particular appointment.

From a practical viewpoint, it is better to answer questions you are asked at interview rather than decline to answer them. Normally the question would not directly address what childcare arrangements are in place in the example you give, but rather would ask if a request for you to work overtime would cause you a problem, or if you can normally be flexible on your hours and if so how much notice would you require.  Inflexibility can of course be due to many reasons, and not just about childcare requirements.  If this is raised and you feel it is inappropriate, it is not unreasonable to ask why it is something they need to know details of.  That may result in information which means you choose to withdraw your interest.

Remember to find out in advance as much as you can about any job you apply for – that should include the work location, whether they will need to ask you to work longer than the advertised hours, whether they have fixed annual leave rules you need to know about, etc.  By checking these things in advance, you can restrict your applications to those job opportunities where such things will not create a potential problem for you, and therefore won’t rule you out as a candidate from the employer’s perspective.