Britain told to clarify rules on workfare

Feb. 13, 2013 at 12:31 AM
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LONDON, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A British appeals court Tuesday ruled the unemployed forced to work without pay are not being given enough information about their rights.

The court ruled in favor of Cait Reilly, 24, a university graduate from Birmingham with a degree in geology, who was told by a Jobcenter she had to switch from an unpaid job in a museum to stocking shelves at the discount chain Poundland, also without pay, The Guardian reported. The court issued a similar ruling in the case of Jamieson Wilson, 40, a truck driver from Nottingham.

Mark Hoban, the minister for employment, said the court did not reject programs requiring the unemployed to work in exchange for benefits and to get experience.

"We are, however, disappointed and surprised at the court's decision on our regulations. There needed to be flexibility so we could give people the right support to meet their needs and get them into a job," he said. "We do not agree with the court's judgment and are seeking permission to appeal, but new regulations will be tabled to avoid any uncertainty."

The court found the regulations are unclear and those receiving benefits and even Jobcenter employees are often unaware of them. As one example, Reilly was wrongly told she had to make the switch from the museum to Poundland even though the museum job was related to what she hoped would be her career, an order she said "didn't make any sense."

"My first reaction was to be really upset because I loved going in there," she said, talking about the museum job. "They depended upon me quite a lot and I depended on them for the experience."

Reilly took her story to The Guardian in 2011 and a legal group then took her case pro bono. She said she is not a "job snob" and is now working for pay as a checkout clerk.

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