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A much-needed win for vulnerable and exploited domestic workers

As we have previously blogged, UK law does not do enough to protect migrant domestic workers in the UK from abuse, exploitation and modern slavery.

While this remains true, there were two very important Supreme Court decisions last week which will at least provide one potential avenue for redress for one particularly vulnerable group of domestic workers.

In the similar cases of Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs & Anor and  Reyes v Al-Malki, the Supreme Court found that employees of embassies of foreign states in the UK do not have diplomatic or state immunity in respect of claims from domestic staff for unfair dismissal, discrimination, harassment or human trafficking.

 

While this remains true, there were two very important Supreme Court decisions last week which will at least provide one potential avenue for redress for one particularly vulnerable group of domestic workers.

The reasons for the decisions were that in these cases:

  • no sovereign rights were engaged which could have justified the application of state immunity on the facts of these cases; and
  • the employment (to carry out domestic tasks) and alleged treatment were found not to constitute acts performed in the course of the diplomat’s official functions.

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