Monday 6 August 2012

Unpaid Work Scheme Does Not Breach Human Rights

[Thanks to John Cook of SAS Daniels LLP for preparing this case summary]

Is it slave labour and therefore unlawful to force an individual in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance to participate in a 'work for your benefit' scheme?

No, says the Administrative Court in R (on behalf of Reilly & Wilson) v Department of Work and Pensions.

Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour. As part of two schemes to help recipients back to work individuals were required to participate in schemes that involved them providing unpaid work. A failure to participate in the scheme can result in a loss of benefits.

In the instant case Miss Reilly was a geology graduate who was required to work in Poundland for two weeks. Mr Wilson was a HGV driver who was required to work for an organisation delivering refurbished furniture to the needy in the community. His placement was to be for 30 hours per week for a period of 26 weeks.

Both claimed this amounted to a breach of Article 4. The Court held that although views may reasonably differ about the merits of a scheme that requires individuals to 'work for their benefits' as a means of assisting them back into the workplace, such schemes could not be said to amount to 'slavery' or 'forced labour'.

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