Taiwo v Olaigbe (Supreme Court)
This case affirmed that while it is "clearly wrong" for an employer to mistreat migrant workers due to vulnerabilities associated with their immigration status, such treatment is not "direct race discrimination" under UK law.
Two migrant domestic workers had been mistreated by their respective employers, both of which had supplied false information to the UK authorities to procure the issue of their employee's visas. The employers had effectively exploited the individuals in question, using their vulnerable immigration status (on which they relied for continued employment and residence in the UK) to bully them, deny them sufficient rest-breaks and fail to pay them the National Minimum Wage. Both individuals resigned and alleged race discrimination.
The Supreme Court held that while immigration status is a "function" of nationality (the latter of which would qualify as a protected characteristic under current discrimination laws), those two terms should not be considered inseparable. For example, there are many different types of immigration status and that of many non-British nationals residing and working in the UK would not be considered "vulnerable". Ultimately, Parliament did not include immigration status as a protected characteristic under UK discrimination law and the Courts should not look past this wording.
Employers should not interpret this judgment as legitimising an employee's mistreatment on the grounds of immigration status. Depending on the circumstances, abused employees may find remedy in, for example, an action for breach of contract, under the law of tort or even under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Furthermore, the judgment recommends that Parliament reconsiders the remedies available under the latter to ensure that all harms suffered in similar circumstances – including humiliation, fear and distress – are covered by an appropriate remedy.