David Sorensen, Partner at Morrish confirms that “this is a very important decision not only because it concerns a claim involving caste discrimination but because the award is so high”.
An employment tribunal has awarded a domestic servant who brought one of the UK’s first claims for caste discrimination £184,000 in unpaid wages.
Ms Tirkey was in domestic service for Mr and Mrs Chandok, initially in India and later in the UK. She is from the Adivasi people, who some in India consider “low caste”.
Ms Tirkey brought various claims in the employment tribunal, including that she was discriminated against because of her caste.
She alleged that she was required to be on call 24 hours a day, had to sleep on the floor, and was prevented from contacting her family or having control of her own bank account.
She also claimed that she was not paid the national minimum wage, receiving just 11 pence per hour.
Her case went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) to decide the legal issue of whether or not caste discrimination claims can be pursued under the Equality Act 2010.
The EAT concluded that she could proceed with her caste discrimination claim, which was later successful in the employment tribunal, along with her other claims.
The employment tribunal has now awarded Ms Tirkey £183,774 for unpaid wages, as she was not paid the national minimum wage.
A further remedy hearing has been scheduled for 5 and 6 November 2015 to decide on compensation for her other claims, including for caste discrimination.
Ms Tirkey said: “I want the public to know what happened to me as it must not happen to anyone else. The stress and anxiety that this sort of thing creates for a person can destroy them.
“I have not been able to smile because my life had been destroyed. Now I am able to smile again. Now I am free.”
Victoria Marks, the claimant’s solicitor from the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit said: “This is a very useful judgment for victims of modern day slavery. We hope that it will give other victims the courage to come forward and seek redress.
“It is important that traffickers do not act with impunity and that they see that their victims can and will hold them to account.”
The judgment comes just days before the Modern Slavery Act 2015 comes into force. The legislation requires large commercial employers to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement each year.
Resource: Personnel Today