High court rules that Government scheme is not tantamount to forced labour


The Government has anxiously been awaiting a court judgment on whether their back-to-work schemes amount to forced labour. A recent graduate, Cait Reilly, and an unemployed lorry driver, Jamie Wilson, had argued that the schemes were in breach of article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits forced labour and slavery.

Earlier this week the high court found that such reasoning lacked foundation and that the Government had not acted unlawfully.

No violation of human rights, but deduction of benefits was unjustified

The judge, Mr Justice Foskett, reasoned that there was a significant difference between forced labour and the requirement to engage in temporary unpaid work for the purpose of receiving benefits. However, Foskett did rule that the Department for Work and Pensions had not been clear in their communication with benefit receivers.

The letters produced by the Department were dubious as to whether those enrolled in back-to-work schemes would lose their benefits if they did not engage in the assigned temporary employment. It follows that any deductions made due to a participant's failure to take up the work might have been unlawful.

This means that there may be hundreds of people who have had their benefits cut unlawfully. The Department for Work and Pensions has announced they intend to appeal this part of the judgement. However, in the meantime they have clarified their letters.

Do I have to work?

The Government believes that its back-to-work schemes provide participants with valuable work experience as they get to be part of the professional world. Currently, those enrolled in such schemes are required to take up the work experience.

However, the schemes have been highly criticised as offering large companies a free workforce without any need for them to commit to employing the workers. Many of those who have undertaken work under back-to-work schemes have claimed that they did not get any valuable experience and were exploited.

If you'd like any information regarding benefits we can put you in touch with an expert solicitor in your area, free of charge. Call us now on 0800 1777 162.

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