UK: Welfare-to-work policies ‘incompatible’ with the European Convention on Human Rights

The High Court has ruled that emergency laws relating to the government’s welfare-to-work policies are ‘incompatible’ with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The case resulted from the successful legal challenge lodged by Cait Reilly, who had argued that mandatory participation in an unpaid work placement at a Poundland store had breached her human rights.

As a result of the original decision the government introduced emergency legislation which came into effect in March 2013. This made clearer the obligations expected of jobseekers to do all they could to find work so as to retain eligibility for benefits.

The legislation also sought to retrospectively legitimise sanctions applied under the previous rules. It was this amendment which the High Court ruling in July 2014 deemed incompatible with the ECHR.

It is being reported that, if upheld, the government could be forced to pay compensation of £130 million (€164 million as at 28 November 2014) to those who had sanctions applied incorrectly.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has indicated that the government will appeal against the ruling.

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