Poundland has withdrawn from the government’s controversial work programme after media pressure has put the scheme under the spotlight.

The retailer has withdrawn from the mandatory element of the programme which aims to get the long-term unemployed back into work.

The round-pound retailer continues to offer the voluntary Work Experience programme, during which participants can continue to claims their benefits, that runs for up to six weeks.

Poundland is the latest retailer to drop out of the scheme including Sainsbury’s, TK Maxx and Waterstones.

Matalan, Superdrug and Argo have suspended their involvement in the scheme and will meet with the Department for Work and Pensions to discuss it next week.

Tesco, the first retailer to be criticised for employing the scheme, offered to pay participants to an equivalent scheme and will honour the remaining 1,500 places it has to offer on the Work Experience programme, part of the wider Get Britain Working initiative.