Lap dancing clubs among job centre advertisers
WOMEN are being asked to prostitute themselves after applying for vacancies in job centres, the Government has admitted.
Job centres across the UK are routinely advertising for escort agencies, lap dancing clubs, massage parlours and TV sex channels, according to a new report released by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Government has now revealed that applicants getting such jobs have complained after being asked to perform "sexual services" for clients.
Women's groups last night said the revelations were effective proof that job centres were providing a path into prostitution for out-of-work customers.
All job centres across the UK have been forced to advertise adult entertainment posts since 2003 after the High Court ruled that a previous ban was discriminatory.
But ministers are now considering whether to place new restrictions on the practice to ensure the Government is not inadvertently providing a "pimping" role in the huge prostitution industry.
An investigation by this newspaper of job centres in Scotland last week found several adverts for adult entertainment jobs. There was no suggestion that any of the positions involved prostitution and they fell within the criteria for advertising in job centres.
One centre in Edinburgh was offering job-seekers the opportunity to become a lap dancer at a city-centre location in the capital, guaranteeing an above minimum wage.
Also advertised was a 32-hour-a-week job as a pole dancer in Glasgow on a "self-employed basis".
The adult entertainment industry insists that it adopts strict working safeguards, which ensure that employees are not exploited. Employers also point out that workers in the industry willingly take on such jobs and are not coerced.
But there is now clear evidence that some applicants are being asked to perform "sexual services".
Two cases were uncovered in the past year, the DWP has said. In the first case, the job in question was subsequently withdrawn from the job centre list of vacancies. In the second, the employer was warned about the standards required and was then allowed to continue to advertise.
The DWP has also revealed that, since 2003, job centre staff have stopped four adult entertainment employers advertising in their premises following investigations into alleged improprieties.
A spokeswoman for the pressure group Object said: "This is the tip of the iceberg. The fact is that a lot of these jobs are often a front for prostitution. They should not be placed in job centres, it is as simple as that."
She added: "Since prostitution is essentially not legal in our society, due to the massive harm associated with it, why are we allowing the 'fronts' for them at all, and for these fronts to be so very normalised and so clearly promoting prostitution?"
Katherine Rake of the Fawcett Society, which has also campaigned against lap dancing clubs, said: "It is completely unacceptable that these jobs should be offered in job centres.
"The line between the adult entertainment industry and the sex industry is very blurred. The cases where there have been complaints suggest we are talking about sexual pimping by the state."
The DWP is now launching a new consultation exercise which will examine whether to tighten the rules on how such jobs are advertised in job centres.
In total, job centres advertised 351 vacancies in the adult entertainment industry last year. Among the positions offered were 44 vacancies for lap dancers, 30 vacancies for adult chat line operators, eight vacancies for masseuses and eight vacancies on a topless TV channel. A further 11 'other' jobs included "a semi nude butler, a nude cleaner and a kissogram".
Adult entertainment businesses were allowed to place vacancies in job centres following a legal challenge led by the high-street chain Ann Summers. The group successfully argued that in preventing the adult entertainment industry from advertising, Jobcentre Plus was failing to recognise that many people would want to apply for such jobs.
The rules now stipulate that for jobs that may involve physical contact – such as work as an escort or in a massage parlour – employers must guarantee that no contact is of a sexual nature. Job centre staff then follow up job-seekers who obtain such jobs to check they are not being coerced into providing sexual services.
However, ministers appear to want to take a tougher line following the explosion in the adult entertainment industry. The number of pole dancing and lap dancing clubs in Britain has doubled in the past three years.
UK ministers say they will soon act to tighten up licensing laws for lap dancing clubs.
A spokesman for the DWP said: "We've already tightened up the rules to crack down on unscrupulous employers, and we want to make absolutely sure that anyone who attempts to flout them and take advantage of people looking for work is dealt with.
"In the past year, around 0.015% of vacancies carried by Jobcentre Plus were in the adult entertainment industry. This consultation is all about looking at how we can tighten the rules further."
Adult entertainment vacancies advertised by Jobcentre Plus between August 1, 2007, and July 31, 2008:
Party planner (adult products) 68 vacancies
Retail (adult products) 58
Lap dancing club bar staff, managers 54
Dancers, eg lap, pole, table, erotic 44
Adult chat line operators and supervisors 30
Models including lingerie and nude 28
Topless TV channel staff 8
Webcam operators 7
Topless/semi-nude bar staff 3
Others including semi-nude butler, nude cleaner, kissogram 11
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