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First claims of caste discrimination in the UK

7th December, 2015

An employment tribunal has awarded an initial sum of approximately £184,000 for unpaid wages to a domestic servant who brought the UK’s first successful claim for caste discrimination.

The award is expected to increase at a further hearing later this month, when the outcome of all her other successful claims is decided.

Permila Tirkey was employed by Mr and Mrs Chandok as a domestic worker and nanny, initially in India and latterly in the UK. The calculations undertaken for the purposes of the tribunal hearing illustrate that Ms Tirkey was paid the insignificant amount of 11p per hour. The tribunal accepted Ms Tirkey’s claim that she was ‘on call’ and at the beck and call of the Chandoks 18 hours a day 7 days a week.

At the hearing, Ms Tirkey described herself as being of the “servant class” and described the people from her village as being “low caste”. Ms Tirkey further explained that her family are “Adivasi” people who are the lowest class in the “caste pyramid”.

The tribunal found, amongst many other findings, that the Chandoks withheld Ms Tirkey’s passport, required her to sleep on the floor with no privacy, insisted that she did not leave the house without another member of the Respondent’s household being present and prevented her from bringing her bible with her to the UK.

Originally, in 2013, after bringing other claims in the tribunal, Ms Tirkey sought to add a complaint of caste discrimination as either part of her race discrimination complaint or as part of her religious discrimination complaint. Ms Tirkey claimed that the reason she had been recruited and treated in the manner that she had was because she was of a lower status to the Chandoks, and that this view was tainted by caste considerations.

The Chandoks had unsuccessfully appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal in an attempt to have her claim for caste discrimination struck out because the Equality Act 2010 does not specifically include caste.
However, the employment tribunal’s decision illustrates that although the government has yet to amend the Equality Act 2010 to provide expressly that caste is an aspect of the protected characteristic of race and that such cases of caste discrimination can fall within the Equality Act 2010.

The final hearing shall take place on 5 and 6 November 2015, when the tribunal shall determine the full amount of Ms Tirkey’s compensation for her successful unfair dismissal, discrimination and many other claims that were brought against the Chandok’s.

The ruling paves way for others to pursue caste discrimination cases.

For further information and advice on discrimination or the Equality Act 2010, please contact Ben Mason on 01743 294129 or send an email to [email protected].

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