Return to Oz …

I haven’t had coffee with Niles and Frasier for a few days. I’ve not escaped to the country where I inevitably scream abuse at wannabe mansion owners. I haven’t even managed an afternoon nap with Chaplin, much to his irritation.

Instead I’ve faced the cruel irony of running after a bus adorned with the face of Meryl Streep as Thatcher as I make my way from long-term unemployment to part-time, temporary work.

I’ve been in a panic about money, of course. I know I won’t receive any wages for at least four weeks.

Getting to work costs £11.50 a week; I will need lunch on one day so will spend about £2 on a sandwich and I imagine there will be other expenses I’ve yet to identify: this could include the hole in my boot I found on my first day running through a puddle, the boot is now so sodden even Charlie Chaplin couldn’t eat it. I also considered a new diet: jam on toast, beans on toast or sardine curry for four weeks.

Then I went to sign-off. I walked into Jobcentre Plus and, despite a fear of being unpaid for weeks, had the arrogant swagger of a prize-winning fighter, knowing I was throwing off the shackles and returning to a world where people didn’t speak to me like I hadn’t yet learned the alphabet.

I sat down with my adviser. I like this one. It took me four to get one I liked which, I assume, is how Tory leaders feel when they’re finding someone suitable to bring up their children for them. He isn’t patronising, believes me when I show my Looking for Work booklet entries and understands my frustration.

“I’ve found part-time work-It’s be enough to live on-I’m so relieved-I’m so excited.” I yabbered at him as soon as I sat down.

“I’m sure you are.” He smiled the knowing smile of someone used to the mania of the newly short-term, part-time employed.

Then he shocked me to the core. After months of fearing even thinking about part-time work because I would lose all benefits and be plunged into poverty I’m told I can sign on until I’m paid. I am, after all, on a part-time, temporary contract and still looking for permanent, full-time work. I will receive Jobseekers’ Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit until I receive my pay then I will sign off and could receive a £100 back-to-work payment.

This is, of course, because I spent nine months unemployed, any less than six and I think the rules change. It amuses me that the five hours I currently work (soon to go up to 12 in total) will be all I can work.

The government insists that I work for five hours and I’m paid for five hours … if this changes I must alert them immediately. I’m to work only for the hours I am paid. As soon as I sign off, however, I can join you all in being paid for, say, eight hours but effectively working for 12: I can take part in that unpaid overtime us Brits are so good at.

You should consider this one-way street next time you decide to stay late in the office, unpaid, rather than go home to have a glass of wine, bath your child or just lie on your settee. The TUC recently reported that the two billion hours of unpaid overtime worked last year would be enough to create over a million extra full-time jobs.

Even the Daily Mail took this information on board reporting that figures from Labour Force Survey Summer Quarter 2011 found 5.3 million workers put in an average of 7.2 hours of unpaid overtime a week last year, worth around £5,300 a year per person.

It also states that the proportion of workers doing unpaid overtime increased slightly, from 19.7 per cent in 1992 to 21.1 per cent in 2011.

So Friday, February 24 is now Work Your Proper Hours Day. I don’t work Fridays but will be not working in spirit.

If you need something to do while not doing unpaid overtime, I would like to provide a list of my favourite blog entries. I’ve chosen ten in no particular order – to celebrate my return to Oz:

Why I write

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Poverty Porn

Entrepreneurs on the Dole

Currie Makes Me Choke

Grudges and Degrees

Bread, Eggs, Teabags, Catnip

Barking Mad

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

Is It Me Or Is It Cold In Here

I will keep blogging but it will be less often. I have some new skills to learn, there are things I have to read, people I have to see, writing to be done. I’m going to be working extremely hard – and I couldn’t be happier.

How much money I have: £5.11 until Tuesday

How many hours I have worked: 5

How many jobs I’ve found to apply for since I started part-time, temporary work: One (also part-time)

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6 thoughts on “Return to Oz …

  1. I have been an avid fan of this blog for quite a while. I hope you do keep blogging. You’re insights into unemployment are refreshing. Most people want to brush it under the carpet or muse over facts and figures in the pages of a newspaper written from a comfortable office in London.

    I am part of the lost generation, working for minimum wage in a job I am incredibly over qualified for. I have passed your blog onto many people and will continue to do so. Enjoy being in work. Thank you.

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