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Back-To-Work Scheme Ruling Underlines ‘Employment Basics’

Employment Law Expert Comments On Landmark Ruling


By Rob Dixon

The basic and fundamental aspects of a relationship between a worker and their employer have been echoed in the Court of Appeal’s ruling regarding the government’s back-to-work schemes, according to an employment law expert at Irwin Mitchell.

In a landmark decision, judges stated the unpaid work schemes organised by the Department of Work and Pensions were legally flawed, after hearing the case of two individuals including 24-year-old University of Birmingham graduate Cait Reilly.

Ms Reilly argued in court that she was forced to leave voluntary work at a museum and take an unpaid role at Poundland in Kings Heath as part of a back-to-work scheme, with a warning that failing to fulfil the position would mean she would lose Jobseeker’s Allowance.

She stated that the regulations behind the schemes did not comply with legislation used to launch such work programmes. The Appeal Court ruling reversed part of the decision made in the original court hearing, which Ms Reilly and unemployed HGV driver Jamie Wilson originally lost.

Commenting on the case, Ami Naru, an employment specialist at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the ruling was a key decision in emphasising the basic principles on which work is underpinned.

She outlined: "The judgment echoes what is a fundamental employment relationship basic, which is that you should get paid for the work that you do.
“It effectively means that the scheme cannot continue in its current form and therefore individuals cannot be penalised now for not participating.
"Although the intentions of the scheme may have been to stop people sitting on benefits without really making an effort to find work, there needs to be a focused approach to getting people back to work in jobs that are suited to them rather than just sending them anywhere such as Poundland.

“This may form part of the re- thinking process that the government now has to go through."