'Low caste' woman awarded £183,000 compensation in discrimination case
Permila Tirkey, who was paid 11p an hour for an 18-hour day, wins claim in landmark employment tribunal against former employers Ajay and Pooja Chandhok
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
A "low caste" Indian woman has been awarded £184,000 in compensation from her employers who made her work 18 hours a day for an hourly rate of 11 pence.
Permila Tirkey brought the claim after being forced to work for a wealthier British-Indian family for more than four years.
Miss Tirkey worked seven days a week and was forced to sleep on the floor of Ajay and Pooja Chandhok's home in Milton Keynes.
Her lawyers said the case set a new legal landmark by establishing that workers in Britain who are treated poorly because they are from a lower Indian caste are protected by race discrimination laws.
The employment tribunal hearingin Cambridge heard Miss Tirkey, now 39, was also barred from contacting her family and from bringing her Bible with her when the Chandhoks recruited her from Bihar, the poorest of the Indian states, in 2008.
Miss 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, her solicitor from charity 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."
The tribunal ordered Mr and Mrs Chandhok to pay their former employee £183,773 to make up the shortfall in what she should have received under the national minimum wage.
It ruled she was a victim of unlawful harassment and indirect religious discrimination.
Mrs Chandhok, who hired the employee, was born in India to Afghan Hindu parents and has been a British citizen since 2005.
Her husband was described as a Hindu born in Afghanistan whose parents sought refuge in Britain during the Afghanistan war in 1985 and has lived in Britain since 1999. He remains a German citizen.
Miss Tirkey, from from Bihar, the poorest of the Indian states, arrived in Britain in May 2008 and cared for the couple's twins, a boy and a girl, and performed other domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning.
The Chandhok's "concocted" a story about her working for them over an earlier period in order to circumvent immigration rules, the tribunal said.
After hearing evidence about Miss Tirkey's accommodation the tribunal found that she slept on the floor of several rooms within the house and on occasion had to sleep without a mattress.
The panel also accepted her evidence that she worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and outside those hours she was "on call" to do the family's bidding.
The Chandhoks had claimed Miss Tirkey's hours were five and a half or six hours a day only with either one or two days off per week.
Mrs Chandhok would call Miss Tirkey "girl", despite being younger than her, which the tribunal accepted was "demeaning".
Miss Tirkey left their employment in 2013 by resigning "in circumstances which amounted to a dismissal", the ruling said.
The tribunal said the Chandhoks "wanted a servant in the Indian style".
"They wanted someone who would be not merely of service but servile, who would not be aware of United Kingdom employment rights and whom they could treat in the United Kingdom as [Mrs Chandhok's] father treated his servants in India," the ruling concluded.
It found the employers had also breached the European Union working time directive over her rest hours and annual leave.
In addition to the compensation awarded by the tribunal a further hearing to determine remedies for the discrimination and other matters will be held later this year.
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