Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Back-to-work regulations planned

Cait Reilly outside the High Court after she won an appeal ruling that a back-to-work scheme requiring her to work for free at a store was unlawful

The Government is taking emergency action after the Court of Appeal ruled that flagship back-to-work schemes are legally flawed.

Three judges quashed regulations underpinning the schemes, which are condemned by critics as "slave labour" because they involve work without pay - but are seen by supporters as a good way of getting the unemployed back into the world of work.

A legal battle is now looming over whether jobless people who had benefits stopped because they refused to take part in the schemes are entitled to a refund.

Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton unanimously agreed the 2011 regulations failed to give the unemployed enough information, especially about the sanctions for refusing jobs under the schemes.

The appeal ruling was a victory for university graduate Cait Reilly, 24, from Birmingham, who challenged having to work for free at a local Poundland discount store.

It was also a victory for 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, from Nottingham, who objected to doing unpaid work cleaning furniture and as a result was stripped of his jobseeker's allowance for six months.

Employment minister Mark Hoban said he was disappointed and surprised at the court's decision and said the Government would be pushing through emergency regulations to enable the schemes to continue.

"What the judge said is that there should be more detail in the regulations. What we are doing today is introducing emergency regulations to provide that detail," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

"So it's business as usual for people who want support to look for a job. At the same time we are going to appeal this judgment."

Any further appeal would be to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.

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