Migrant workers lose appeal over race discrimination
Two migrant workers who were “treated disgracefully” by their employers have lost their claim for race discrimination.
However, the courts upheld their claims relating to other grievances.
The case involved two workers who were in the UK on migrant domestic worker's visas obtained for them by their respective employers. Both sets of employers had supplied false information to the UK authorities to procure the visas. Both retained the workers' passports, denied them rest periods and the minimum wage, and threatened and abused them.
In each case the employment tribunal upheld the workers' claims in respect of their rights to the minimum wage, rest periods and written terms of employment.
In each case the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that there was no race discrimination as the workers had been mistreated because they were vulnerable migrant workers reliant on their employers for their employment and residence in the UK, not because of their race.
The Court of Appeal held that there was no direct discrimination as the mistreatment was because of the workers' immigration status, which could not be equated with nationality. It held that there was no indirect discrimination because the employers had exercised no discriminatory policy, criterion or practice.
The Supreme Court has upheld that decision although it added that the workers had been treated disgracefully.
It suggested that Parliament might wish to consider whether the remedy provided by the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was too restrictive and whether an employment tribunal should be able to grant recompense for the ill-treatment meted out to workers such as those in this case.
Please contact Robert Bedford if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.