Winning compensation is one thing, but enforcing its payment is another. That point could hardly have been more powerfully made than by a case in which a domestic servant who was awarded almost £270,000 by an Employment Tribunal (ET) ended up without a penny.
In what was believed to be the first successful ‘caste discrimination’ case brought before an ET, the Indian woman successfully complained that the couple for whom she worked had paid her far below the National Minimum Wage. The ET also found that she had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on grounds of her religion and race. She was awarded total compensation of £266,536.
A firm of solicitors commendably agreed to act free of charge in pursuing the couple for payment of the award. However, they ultimately only succeeded in recovering £35,702, roughly 13 per cent of the amount due. The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) had funded the woman’s case and elected to exercise its statutory charge over the sum recovered. The end result was that the woman received nothing.
In ruling on the woman’s judicial review challenge to the LAA’s decision, the High Court acknowledged that her position was extremely unfortunate. The findings of the ET were wholly consistent with her claim that she was a victim of trafficking and had been held in servitude by the couple. In dismissing her case, however, the Court rejected arguments that the application of the statutory charge breached her human rights or European rules designed to combat human trafficking.