The UK's Supreme Court is set to rule today on the legality of the Government's "back-to-work" schemes at the centre of the high-profile Poundland case.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is attempting to overturn a Court of Appeal ruling that regulations underpinning the schemes were legally flawed.
The schemes were condemned by critics as ''slave labour'' because they involved work without pay and cuts in jobseeker's allowance for those who failed to comply with the rules.
University graduate Cait Reilly, 24, from Birmingham, and 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, from Nottingham, had both succeeded in their claims that the unpaid schemes were legally flawed.
The work and pensions secretary has criticised people "who think they're too good" to stack supermarket shelves. Iain Duncan Smith said many "smart people" overlooked the importance of effective shelf-stacking.
Geology graduate Cait Reilly recently won a legal victory over the government's back-to-work scheme. But the Mr Duncan Smith warned against assuming that geology was more important than supermarket work
He said: "I understand she said she wasn't paid. She was paid jobseeker's allowance, by the taxpayer, to do this. I'm sorry, but there is a group of people out there who think they're too good for this kind of stuff."
"Let me remind you that [former Tesco chief executive] Terry Leahy started his life stacking shelves."
The next time somebody goes in - those smart people who say there's something wrong with this - they go into their supermarket, ask themselves this simple question.
"When they can't find the food they want on the shelves, who is more important - them, the geologist, or the person who stacked the shelves?"
He was speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.
A university graduate has won a legal ruling today that a Government back-to-work scheme, requiring her to work for free at a Poundland discount store, was unlawful.
Cait Reilly claimed that her placement on the scheme had been unlawful.
ITV News' Business Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, assesses the importance of the ruling.
Today's rulings in the Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson cases should mean the end of working without pay, according to the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union.
The Union said it welcomed the Court of Appeal judgement and agreed Ms Reilly was unlawfully forced to work for no wages.
This is a very significant ruling that we believe supports what we have said all along, that no one should be forced to work without pay.
The government can not continue to help private companies and charities to exploit people who are out of work, and these schemes must surely now be scrapped and the work brought back in-house.
In his ruling, Lord Justice Pill said the Poundland work scheme case raised a question of "statutory construction".
He said the challenge was to the lawfulness of the 2011 Government regulations made by Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, under sections of the Jobseekers Act 1995.
The judge said he was "unable to conclude that the statutory requirement for the regulations to make provision" for back-to-work schemes "of a prescribed description" had been met.
He ruled: "The statutory requirement is that the prescribed description is in the regulation."
Declaring the regulations unlawful, the judge said they must be quashed since their central purpose was to impose "requirements" on jobseeker allowance claimants and sanctions for failing to comply.
Today's Court of Appeal ruling that it is unlawful to be made to work for free demonstrates there is a "big hole" in the Government's work scheme programmes, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This blows a big hole through the Government's workfare policies. Of course voluntary work experience can help the jobless, and it is right to expect the unemployed to seek work.
“But it is pointless to force people to work for no pay in jobs that do nothing to help them while putting others at risk of unemployment.
"This policy is about blaming the jobless, not helping them. Ministers should now abandon this misguided approach, and instead guarantee real jobs for the long-term unemployed, especially the young.”
The Court of Appeal ruled today that the regulations under which most of the Government's back-to-work schemes were created are unlawful.
Sector-based work academies (SBWA) were introduced in 2011 and form part of a larger government initiative called ‘Get Britain Working’.
Here's a guide to what the scheme offers:
- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) scheme is one of the measures to help those who are ready for work and receiving benefits to secure employment.
- The programme is for recipients of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.
- The scheme is a voluntary programme for recipients, however once a claimant has accepted a place attendance becomes mandatory.
- Benefit sanctions could be imposed if claimants fail to start or fail to comply with the terms of their SBWA.
- A SBWA can last up to six weeks and consists of pre-employment training, a work experience placement and a guaranteed job interview.