The government was wrong to require a graduate to leave her internship in a museum to stack shelves in a high street shop, a high court judge ruled today.
However, the government had not breached her human right to protection from slavery and forced labour, the judge also ruled.
The judgment, handed down today by Mr Justice Foskett, arose from a judicial review brought by Cait Reilly (pictured), first reported in the Gazette on 26 January.
The review challenged the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011 that had obliged her to leave vocational work experience for a government back-to-work scheme that offered no training or prospect of advancement.
Foskett found that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to comply with 4 (2) of the regulations, which required giving Reilly written details of the scheme, such as a start date, its duration and penalties for not participating.
This breach of the regulations meant the DWP had forfeited the power to require Reilly to take part in the scheme or to impose sanctions if she chose not to attend, Foskett ruled.
Foskett found, however, that the government work scheme had not breached article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights that prohibits slavery and forced labour. The scheme, unlike slavery, was designed to help the unemployed to find employment and was ‘a very long way removed from the kind of colonial exploitation of labour that led to the formulation of article 4’, he said.