Mistreatment of migrant domestic workers who are vulnerable because of their immigration is not race discrimination

Supreme Court of United Kingdom: The issue in this appeal is whether the mistreatment of migrant domestic workers who are vulnerable because of their precarious immigration status amounts to direct or indirect race discrimination. The Court while dismissing the appeal said that though these employees were treated disgracefully but they cannot be termed as race discrimination.

The appellant is Ms. Taiwo, who is a Nigerian National, who entered the United Kingdom to work for the respondents- she was not paid the minimum wages, was not given food, was physically and mentally abused by her employers. She was awarded compensation in respect of these claims but her racial discrimination claim was rejected by the Employment Tribunal. The second appellant, a Nigerian national, also had a similar case. The Employment Tribunal accepted all her claims including her racial discrimination one.

The Court unanimously dismissed the appeal on the grounds that though these employees were treated disgracefully, it was nothing to do with their Nigerian status. The reason why these employees were treated so badly was their particular vulnerability arising from their immigration status. The Court further added that the appeals have been dismissed not because these appellants do not deserve a remedy for all the grievous harms they have suffered. It is because the present law, although it can redress some of those harms, cannot redress them all. Parliament may well wish to address its mind to whether the remedy provided by section 8 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is too restrictive in its scope and whether an employment tribunal should have jurisdiction to grant some recompense for the ill-treatment meted out to workers such as these, along with the other remedies which it does have power to grant. [Taiwo v. Olaigbe and another; Onu v. Akwiwu and another, [2016] 1 WLR 2653 : [2016] UKSC 31, decided on 22.06.2016]

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