Chris Milsom represents claimant in the first successful case of caste-based discrimination in the Employment Tribunal


In a ground-breaking judgment in Tirkey v Chandok and another ET/3400174/2013, handed down on 17 September 2015, the Employment Tribunal upheld claims for harassment on the grounds of race, religious discrimination, unfair dismissal, pay claims and breaches of the Working Time Directive.

The Claimant was born in India to the Adivasi class, which falls at the bottom of India’s hierarchical caste system. Ms Tirkey was recruited from India and kept in domestic servitude by the Respondents. The Tribunal found that she was recruited from India because who she was ‘by birth, by virtue of her inherited position in society’. The conditions and environment in which she was held were ‘a clear violation of her dignity’.

The Tribunal found that there was no period of the day when the Claimant was not on call and that she worked 18 hours per day, seven days a week for a period of four and half years. She was paid 11p per hour.

She was not allowed to leave the Respondents’ house unaccompanied. Her passport was kept locked away and she had no control over the bank account that was opened on her behalf by the Respondents. She had to sleep on a foam mattress on the floor of the children’s room and was prevented from contacting her family.

The Claimant was Christian. The First Respondent was born in India to an Afghan Hindu parents and is a practising Buddhist. The Second Respondent is Hindu. The Tribunal found that the Claimant was not allowed to bring her pocket-sized Bible to the UK on the basis that it was too heavy and that she would have no time to read it while working for the Respondents. Throughout her employment the Claimant was prevented from practising her religion. This was found to be another mechanism of the Respondents’ control over the Claimant.

Despite the factual basis of the case being vigorously defended by the Respondents, the Claimant’s evidence was accepted in full and she has succeeded in all of her claims.

The government has expressed a commitment to tackle modern slavery. However it is concerning that the new Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014, which were implemented in response to holiday pay claims, are likely to prevent victims of trafficking receiving the full amount of National Minimum wages owed due to the two-year backstop in the new regulations.

Read the judgment here

Chris Milsom and Tamar Burton previously appeared in the EAT in this case to determine whether caste-based discrimination falls within the confines of s. 9 of the Equality Act 2010, please see: Is caste discrimination barred under the Equality Act?

For press coverage on this case see:

BBC: Woman awarded £184,000 in ‘first caste discrimination’ case

The Guardian: Woman awarded £184,000 in UK’s first caste discrimination case 

ATLEU’s  Press Release