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Poundland ruling 'should mean end of working for free'

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.

– PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka

Work scheme 'failed to meet statutory requirement'

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.

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TUC: Poundland judgement shows ‘big hole’ in government policy

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.”

What are sector-based work academies?

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 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.

Work schemes reveal 'lack of transparency'

Solicitor Tessa Gregory, who represented Cait Reilly and 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, said today's ruling reveals "a lack of transparency" by the Department for Work and Pensions in implementing mandatory work schemes.

The case has revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions was going behind Parliament's back and failing to obtain Parliamentary approval for the various mandatory work schemes that it was introducing.

It also reveals a lack of transparency and fairness in the implementation of these schemes.

The claimants had no information about what could be required of them under the back-to-work schemes.

The Court of Appeal has affirmed the basic constitutional principle that everyone has a right to know and understand why sanctions are being threatened and imposed against them.

Reilly: Poundland work scheme 'a waste of my time'

University graduate Cait Reilly, who won her Court of Appeal claim today that requiring her to work for free at a Poundland discount store was unlawful, said she was "delighted" with the judgement.

I brought this case because I knew it was wrong when I was prevented from doing my voluntary work in a museum and forced to work in Poundland for free for two weeks as part of a scheme known as the sector based work academy.

Those two weeks were a complete waste of my time as the experience did not help me get a job.

I wasn't given any training and I was left with no time to do my voluntary work or search for other jobs.

The only beneficiary was Poundland, a multimillion-pound company. Later I found out that I should never have been told the placement was compulsory.

I don't think I am above working in shops like Poundland. I now work part time in a supermarket. It is just that I expect to get paid for working.

I hope the Government will now take this opportunity to rethink its strategy and do something which actually builds on young unemployed people's skills and tackles the causes of long-term unemployment.

I agree we need to get people back to work but the best way of doing that is by helping them, not punishing them.

The Government ought to understand that if they created schemes which actually helped people get back into work then they wouldn't need to force people to attend.

– Cait Reilly
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