• In the case of R (Reilly) v Work and Pensions Secretary [2013] UKSC 68 [2014] ac 453, it was found that parliamentary sovereignty is the coming into force of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 retrospectively supports the Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme.

Facts of the Case

  • Unemployed people, by virtue of the Jobseekers Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, who were claiming jobseekers’ allowance, were required to engage in unpaid work experience due to the risk of losing their benefits.
  • C, Caitlin Reilly, an unemployed geology graduate, successfully challenged the policy on the basis that the authorising regulations were invalid and that they were in contravention with Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights which refers to the prohibition of forced labour.
  • The UK Government appealed this to the Supreme Court.
  • Prior to the appeal’s hearing, Parliament introduced the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 which retrospectively validated the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations.


  • Did the scheme contravene Article 4 ECHR?

Held by the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court allowed the appeal on the basis that the scheme retrospectively made the 2013 Act valid.

Lord Neuberger

  • The 2011 Act was deemed ultra vires because they failed to provide a sufficient description which was a mandatory requirement under 17A of the Jobseekers Act 1995.
  • There existed a common law duty to provide Cs with sufficient information about the schemes so they could have adequate representation to the decision-maker.
  • “On the facts of the present case, there was a failure to provide either Ms Reilly or Mr Wilson with adequate, accurate information about the schemes in relation to themselves before they were informed that their participation was required. This would have been a ground for treating the notice served on Mr Wilson as ineffective if it had otherwise complied with the requirements of the statute, but we have already held that it was ineffective and do not consider that any further relief is required.” [76]
  • “The provision of a conditional benefit of that kind comes nowhere close to the type of exploitative conduct at which article 4 is aimed. Nor is it to the point that according to Ms Reilly the work which she did for Poundland was unlikely in fact to advance her employment prospects. Whether the imposition of a work requirement as a condition of a benefit amounts to exacting forced labour within the meaning of article 4 cannot depend on the degree of likelihood of the condition achieving its purpose.” [83]