Last week on the 30 October 2013, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of R (on the application of Reilly and another) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2013 UKSC 68. The Supreme Court confirmed that the UK Government had lost the appeal to overturn the ruling that it’s controversial ‘back to work ‘schemes were legally flawed.
This case has attracted widespread media attention. This case focused on Caitlin Reilly, a 24 year old university graduate who had been voluntarily working in a local museum in order to gain experience in that sector whilst claiming job-seeker’s allowance. However, the conditions of the Government’s scheme forced Ms Reilly to work in a Poundland shop in order to continue to claim her benefits. Ms Reilly challenged being made to do unpaid work in the store on the basis that this scheme breached her human rights.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had appealed against the finding that the 2011 Regulations were ultra vires as they contained insufficient detail on one of the back to work schemes introduced under the 2011 Regulations.
The Supreme Court confirmed that it would have affirmed the Court of Appeal decision that the 2011 Regulations were ultra vires. However, in the light of the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Schemes for Assisting Persons to Obtain Employment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/276) and the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 which were introduced to rectify the issues with the 2011 Regulations, it felt that a “more subtly expressed form of order” would be required.
The Supreme Court further held that making Jobseeker’s Allowance conditional on work or work related activity does not constitute forced labour contrary to article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court ruled that the imposition of a work requirement as a condition of a benefit “comes nowhere close to the type of exploitative conduct at which article 4 is aimed.”
This appeal is now somewhat academic with the introduction of the 2013 Regulations and 2013 Act. It will still be interesting to see whether the final order deals with those who may have lost out on benefit payments as a result of the 2011 Regulations.
Clare McDairmant, Marketing Manager and Solicitor, Just Employment Solicitors.