Thursday, 12 January 2012

Graduate forced onto Government work-for-dole scheme, takes legal action!

Another legal challenge to the Governments 'mandatory work' schemes is going to be heard in the High Court.

In November we gave details of how many major high-street stores including Sainsbury, Argos, ASDA, Tesco, Poundland, Primark, were offering no pay, work-for-your-dole placements, for claimants as a condition for retaining their unemployment benefits.

One claimant who was told by her Jobcentre that she would have to work for no pay to keep her benefits was 22 year geology graduate Cait Reilly (pictured) from Birmingham. The geology graduate spent two weeks stacking shelves and sweeping floors for no pay, for 'Poundland' in South Birmingham. Cait told The Guardian newspaper:

"It seems we were being used as free labour in the run-up to Christmas."

Although the 22 year old was not offered an interview following her placement and had told the Jobcentre Plus of her previous retail experience and that she was volunteering at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, she was told that she would lose her benefits if she did not accept the 'mandatory' post.

Cait is now challenging the Government over a scheme which she feels compels jobseekers into "futile, unpaid labour". She is asking the High Court to quash regulations that her lawyers claim were created by the government 'without parliamentary authority' and 'force people into futile, unpaid labour for weeks or months at a time.'

Speaking to the Metro, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said:
"Our priority is to help people off benefits and into work. It is simply absurd to suggest that we should not be providing this support and effectively leaving people at home doing nothing."

Although Poundland didn't offer Cait a job, they told the newspaper: "Our partnership with Jobcentre Plus is a positive step to get people back into work."

Action against this type of forced labour is also being challenged under the Human Rights Act by solicitors from 'Public Interest Lawyers' in Birmingham who are seeking a judicial review of the scheme on behalf of two clients who they maintain were forced to work against their will when put on the Governments 'mandatory work activity' program. This they say amounted to a breach of their human rights under article 4(2) of the Human Rights Act which states that "No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour."


company debt advice said...

From the perspective of someone that works I can say that I agree with the governments work-for-dole scheme. However, I do feel that people should only be forced to work to keep their benefits if they have been out of work for over 1 year.

It will serve to help with the social aspects of the persons life as well as they may feel depressed and choose not to leave home much which would only be detrimental.

Nic said...

I was saddened by the sheer outpouring of venom towards Cait but not surprised. Unfortunately, the knee-jerk response to any headline containing the words "graduate" and "sue" together is always going to be that it's just another self entitled graduate. That's not to say that I think this lawsuit will go anywhere, I don't and I think she's probably damaged her chances if anything.

But it's unfair to dismiss her as self entitled because she's not. She clearly wants to work. She didn't turn down a placement when she had nothing else, she had already made her own (relevant) arrangements. She didn't turn down paid work. She didn't turn down a placement that would have led to paid work. And she didn't turn down a placement that would have given her any additional experience, as she already had experience in retail. (So accusing her of thinking that retail is below her, that nothing but the best graduate jobs are good enough isn't fair either)

Personally, I think she has a right to be angry. I would be too. Whether or not she's right to sue remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that, for anyone working, they should support that any company should delude itself with the belief that they can simply replace Salaried Staff Positions, saving themselves Salary/Tax/National Insurance approaching £20K-£30K per annum with an Unpaid Internship or Work Placement for the Unemployed. The person placed has to be supported by the Bank of Mam and Dad or Taxpayer if unemployed at £15K per annum per job. Plus they end up occupying a job which could easily be filled by someone who is unemployed, again a £15K per annum per job cost to the State.

Lets not be naive here.... the total cost to the system when one salaried job is replaced is about £50K-£60K per annum per job.

In the case of Poundshop, they could continue to recruit the unemployed to do the job, and the cost to the system would not simply be £50K-£60K per annum, but multiples of this figure.

Now... just who precisely is complicit in deceit, and perpetrating a defacto fraud on the UK System.

Further, how many full time staff at Poundship, working for less than £15K per annum, also apply for Working Tax Credit, another taxpayer subsidy for low paid employers.

The Government should terminate the Work Programme with immediate effect, and leave employers to their own devices... if they want to recruit staff, they can pay the Market Rate.