When it comes to nannies and the National Minimum Wage, the position is usually clear. But this is not the case with live-in workers. A minimum wage claim brought by an immigrant domestic worker was recently heard by the High Court.

The case required the court to address the “family worker” exemption set out in the National Minimum Wage 2015. The provision in question is the one relating to wage “deductions” for accommodation and meals.

Mrs Ajayi, came to the UK from Nigeria in 2005. She has worked for  Mr and Mrs Abu for a total of nine years and claims she was a victim of human trafficking.

There was no dispute over the fact that Mrs Ajayi was an employee over the alleged period, but there was a disagreement on her hours and pay. In this kind of situation, the employee’s word is generally believed unless the employer has kept records.

The defence initially relied on the “family worker” exemptions for live-in workers who are treated as members of the family. This obviously includes nannies and the national minimum wage would not need to be paid. For this defence to be successful, however, the employer cannot make the employee pay for food and accommodation. This was the issue that the court had to decide.

The court ordered Mr & Mrs Abu to provide a detailed spreadsheet with a breakdown of monthly salary, “expenses” and the net payments made to Mrs Ajayi. The spreadsheet they submitted showed how expenses had been deducted from Mrs Ajayi’s salary for “lodging” and “feeding”.

At this point they realised that this scuppered their defence and claimed that the document was unreliable. Unsurprisingly, they were held to the spreadsheet they had provided and their defence was rejected. The court said that the Claimant’s “very little pay was the produce of effectively making her pay for the ‘free’ accommodation and meals”.

It is now for the courts to decide how much Mrs Ajayi is to be awarded, with an additional claim of harassment to now be considered.

By Matthew Wheatley

Image used under CC courtesy of Chrisissy