Is it discriminatory to mistreat a migrant domestic worker? The cases of Taiwo and Onu

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Abstract

When presented with images of the American plantations, seamstress sweatshops, Morecambe Bay’s Chinese cockle pickers, or Qatar’s World Cup stadium builders, a sense of inequality will accompany any normal reaction of shock and revulsion. The exploitation of a group of migrant workers readily is characterised as racist, sexist, or both. Yet, when reduced to the sole migrant worker, the legal recognition of discrimination is denied. In such cases, the UK Supreme Court posits a clear distinction between vulnerability and nationality. Not only does this seem somewhat doctrinal and lacking in principle, it produces a likely anomaly between group and individual exploitation. It also stymies claims for the inevitable psychological harm. This paper presents a brief account of the plight of migrant workers in the UK and the legal landscape regarding trafficking. The main body presents a critical appraisal of the Supreme Court’s denial, in Taiwo v Olaigbe and Onu v Akwiwu, that the mistreatment of a sole migrant worker is not discriminatory. It demonstrates that equality law readily can recognise discrimination in such cases. This is followed by some considerations on policy and alternative remedies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIndustrial Law Journal
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 10 Jan 2024

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