The new Universal Jobmatch website has left many jobseekers worried about the safety of their personal information - and claimants uncertain about whether they are obliged to register.

Universal Jobmatch: what are your options?

Do I have to sign up?

A number of claimants have reported signing up for the site, believing they could lose their benefits if they do not. The PCS union has claimed that managers are putting pressure on staff to "misrepresent the mandatory nature of signing up to the new service".

The DWP hopes to get 80 per cent of jobseekers using the system by August 2013, but says Jobcentre Plus clients will not be mandated to register or create a profile. You can currently browse jobs without logging into the site but you will not be able to apply for a job without creating an account.

However, in response to a freedom of information request in September, the DWP FOI team revealed that jobseekers could be ordered to sign up.

"The service will greatly enhance employment prospects, so we expect most JSA claimants will register willingly. However, where registration is deemed by a Jobcentre Plus adviser as reasonable in terms of improving employment prospects, but the claimant will not do so willingly, the adviser will be able to require registration through the issue of a Jobseeker's Direction."

Failing to observe a jobseeker's direction results in a sanction, which means loss of jobseeker's allowance for a fixed period.

Update: Universal Jobmatch to become mandatory for jobseekers


Am I being monitored?

Jobcentre staff can check what jobs claimants have applied for and send them messages through the site, but only if you agree to this during the sign-up process. Some claimants said they were unsure if they could opt out of being monitored in this way when Jobcentre staff took them through the registration process.

It is not mandatory for a claimant to give access to their Universal Jobmatch account, the DWP has confirmed. Access can only be granted voluntarily by the claimant by ticking a box in their Universal Jobmatch profile.

The DWP says allowing access to their account means that claimants can be more easily supported by their personal adviser and receive "extra help to improve their chances of being matched to a job".

The Jobmatch website also collects standard information on what parts of the site you access, your IP address, location, access times and other details.

What security checks are carried out?

You can register as a jobseeker or employer for Universal Jobmatch site through Government Gateway (gov.uk). Here you can quickly set up an ID and password to log into your account.

The only details required are your first name, surname and email address. An email is sent to the email address supplied but no activation code is sent out through the post. The process to register as an employer is similar and also contains no verification stage.

The DWP says: "The security of a claimant's data is of the utmost importance to us and we have a number of checks in place when employers register to use the site. Sadly, there will always be a small number of cases where people seek to get around these checks."

Read: Hackers use government jobs site to steal your data

What information should I share?

The DWP says that if you are being asked for personal information or details beyond your CV, you should contact Jobcentre Plus immediately. Ads should not ask for passport scans, national insurance numbers, bank accounts, your date of birth or passwords.

Ads looking for James Bond-like skills, offering unusually high levels of pay or asking you to sell goods on eBay, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The DWP suggests you do not include sensitive personal data in your profile or CV. This includes: racial or ethnic origin, political beliefs, philosophical or religious beliefs, membership of a trade union or political party, physical or mental health or genetic makeup, addictions, sexual life, the commission of criminal offences or proceedings and associated penalties or fines, and any national identification number.

Can I remove my account if I want to?

According to the website's privacy statement, users are formally able to revoke their consent, although it is not currently clear what impact removing your account could have for claimants: "If you do not want your information to be processed as described by this policy, you make revoke your consent to our Privacy Policy. If you wish to do so. However, please note that if you do withdraw your consent, you may not be able to use the relevant services and your account and profile information will be removed."

Please wait while this video loads. If it doesn't load after a few seconds you may need to have Adobe Flash installed.