Cait Reilly, 23, argued that the government scheme which required her to work as a shelf stacker or risk losing her £53.43 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance was a violation of her human rights.
Despite the media attention that Reilly’s case brought and the confidence that her Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) had in their argument that the requirement under the 2011 regulations to carry out mandatory work breaches Article Four of the European Convention on Human Rights – which prohibits slavery and forced labour – the case was thrown out by Mr Justice Foskett.
Foskett said: “Characterising a scheme as involving ‘slavery’ or ‘forced labour’ seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking,” said Foskett.
This isn’t the first time that a case of this nature has lost its claim, Jobless lorry driver Jamieson Wilson, 40, lost hi challenge of the legality of another scheme in High Court.
Nevertheless, the judge did highlight that both Reilly, a Birmingham University graduate and Wilson were entitled to a declaration that there had been breaches of the 2011 Jobseeker’s Allowance regulations in their cases. Still he ruled that neither case were in breach of article four.
If both cases had won their claims, back-to-back government schemes could have been ruled as invalid.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pension said after Reilly’s ruling: “Comparing our initiatives to slave labour is not only ridiculous but insulting to people around the world facing real oppression.”
Still legal or not, if there’s anything that the recent tax scandals have taught us is that, just because it is legal, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is fair.