Saudi diplomat 'paid domestic Filipino worker 63p an hour, put buzzer around her neck and fed her leftovers'

Filipino woman claims she had to work from 7am to 11.30pm with no rest breaks or time off

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 26 June 2019 23:26
Saudi diplomat 'paid domestic Filipino worker 63p an hour, put buzzer around her neck and fed her leftovers'

A Saudi diplomat allegedly paid a domestic worker in London just 63p an hour and made her “wear a buzzer around her neck”, an employment tribunal has heard.

The Filipino worker, referred to as JW, claims she was made to eat the leftovers of Khalid Basfar’s family and even had to wear a buzzer so she could be “on call” 24 hours a day.

A preliminary hearing at Central London Employment Tribunal was told she had to work from 7am to around 11.30pm each day, with no time off.

For six months work she was paid 9,000 riyals in cash (£1,906), meaning she was working for just 63p an hour.

Mr Basfar, a first secretary at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, in Mayfair, central London, had promised her the minimum wage and a day off every week in exchange for a working visa.

JW said she was regularly verbally abused by his family, was not able to leave the diplomat’s house and had her wages withheld.

She was allegedly only allowed to call her family twice a year, using Mr Basfar’s mobile phone.

Mr Basfar asked for the case to be thrown out on the grounds that he was entitled to diplomatic immunity.

However, that was dismissed by employment judge Jill Brown because his treatment of the worker amounted to slavery and trafficking.

Outlining JW’s case, which she emphasised had not been proved, Judge Brown said: “The claimant is a victim of trafficking, who was exploited by the respondent and his family.

“She has been recognised by the Home Office as a potential victim of trafficking on the basis of her experience with the respondent.”

She added: “I conclude a claim instituted against a foreign diplomat by his domestic servant in relation to work in his home in assumed conditions of human trafficking and modern slavery relates to ‘commercial activity exercised outside his official functions’.

“It comes within the exception to diplomatic immunity.”

JW is making a host of claims under employment and wages regulations, including wrongful dismissal.

Mr Basfar is a current member of the diplomatic staff of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the London hearing was told.

JW had been employed by his household in Saudi Arabia from November 2015.

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She was brought to the UK the following August on a visa as a private servant in his official diplomatic residence.

She was issued with an overseas domestic workers visa as a private servant in a diplomatic household by the UK Border Agency and remains lawfully present in the UK.

To obtain the visa, Mr Basfar had to agree that she would work eight hours a day, 50 hours per week, with 16 hours free time each day, one day off a week and a month's annual leave.

She was to be provided with sleeping accommodation and paid the national minimum wage.

But after arriving in the UK, JW was not given any wages until almost a year later.

The landmark case could pave the way for others to claim damages.

Last week, an employment tribunal awarded a former driver at the Qatari Embassy nearly £190,000 for being pushed to the ground and called a “black dog” and “donkey”.

The diplomat, Abudullah Ali Al-Ansari, walked out of proceedings saying it was beneath the dignity of Qatar to answer the charges.

A hearing will now go ahead later this year to test the allegations that JW was held as a domestic slave.

SWNS contributed to this report

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