Front page news this week has been the case of Caitlin Reilly, a job seeker who was told that she would lose her job seekers allowance if she refused to work unpaid at Poundland under a return to work programme.

Ms Reilly won her claim and this has been rather misleadingly reported as saying forced labour has been outlawed by the Courts. In fact, what happened was that the Court of Appeal held that the regulations under which her job seeker’s allowance was purportedly removed were considered to go beyond the powers that were permitted under the primary legislation of the Jobseekers Act 1995. So, rather than a human rights issue there were effectively drafting errors in the regulations.

The regulations have been quashed, which means that for the time being job seekers who refuse unpaid work will not lose their allowance. However, this is a stop gap only. The Government has said that it will appeal the judgment and that in any event it will amend the regulations to bring them in line with the Act as soon as possible.

So, for all those employers out there who are looking to take people on under a return to work programme the scheme, this is not going to be lawful for the time being. However, that position should soon change. That is, until the next legal challenge…



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