Employment and Skills

Back-to-work programme equated to ‘forced labour’

Back-to-work programme equated to ‘forced labour’

Following the criticism that the Government faced after it emerged that Tesco was offering unpaid work experience schemes as part of the Government’s drive to get more young people off the dole and into work.

The Work programme is now facing legal action over claims that it is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A geology graduate who took part in the programme has asked the High Court to declare the scheme as forced Labour. Ms Reilly’s lawyers have maintained that the programme breaches Article 4 of European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits slavery and forced labour. Cait Reilly argues that she was forced to give up her voluntary work at the British Museum in order to take part in unpaid work at her local Poundland Store. Instead of using skills she developed during her degree she was forced to clean and stack shelves for five hours a day, in return for her Job Seekers Allowance and a guaranteed interview following two weeks of training. The 22 year old is using legal action on grounds that the programme equates to “forced labour” and that the work experience did not help her job search. Nathalie Lieven, QC, who is appearing at the High Court on behalf of Miss Reilly said “such work did not contribute to (Miss Reilly’s) search for work to any extent” The Government is fighting the claim and strongly denies that the scheme equates to forced or slave labour.


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