A hotel boss paid his elderly housekeeper as little as £1.41-an-hour and made her sleep in a chair in the cellar.
Julie Miles, 69, was forced to work 60 hour weeks, cleaning and cooking at the Great Western Hotel in Abergavenny, Wales.
For three years Mrs Miles was not allowed to take a day’s holiday and was treated ‘as a servant’ by employer Gary Hesp.
She took her case to tribunal and has now been awarded more than £50,000 in compensation.
Mrs Miles, who was vulnerable and had nowhere else to stay, lived in the laundry room in the basement of the hotel.
She had to cater to Mr Hesp’s every ‘beck and call’ 24 hours a day, the tribunal found.
The married manager, 67, was also found to have sexually harassed the pensioner by sliding his arm around her waist on three separate occasions.
A hearing in Cardiff was told Mrs Miles began working at the £70 a night hotel – owned by Mr Hesp and his wife Loraine – at the end of 2014 and as part of her role had to clean almost the entire property on her own.
On a daily basis, she had to strip beds, wash, dry and iron the bed linen, make the beds with fresh sheets, clean rooms, hoover and mop and clean the toilets in the bar.
Mr Hesp had a full time job as a bathroom salesman across Devon and Cornwall and used Mrs Miles to keep the hotel running in his absence, the tribunal heard.
For on average 60 hour weeks, Mrs Miles was paid between £84 and £99 which means she was paid below the national minimum wage throughout the three years and five months that she worked at the hotel.
Her pay was so low because Mr Hesp deducted £80 a week for accommodation, but for over a year she was only provided with a chair in a cold laundry room in the cellar.
When Mrs Miles asked for holiday, Mr Hesp reportedly said to her: ‘We can’t spare you. You worked last year without a day off – you can do it again.’
Employment Judge Laura Jane Howden-Evans said: ‘From December 2014 onwards, the relationship that existed between (Mrs Miles) and (her employers) was one of master and servant.
‘It was only by (her) complying with (their) every instruction, completing work quickly, turning her hand to whatever was necessary to get the rooms ready and more importantly by being at Mr Hesp’s beck and call around the clock, that Mr Hesp was able to keep the hotel ticking over whilst working fulltime in Devon and Cornwall.’
The court found Mr Hesp exploited his employee’s financial difficulties and she felt powerless to say or do anything.
When her boss put his arm around her waist, she stepped away to indicate she was not consenting to his inappropriate touching.
The tribunal said: ‘Mrs Miles perceived herself as being an older woman in a vulnerable situation and as such she felt demeaned by Mr Hesp’s unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.
‘She felt trapped in a difficult situation as there was no one to complain to as her bosses were Mr Hesp and his wife and she believed that if she complained she would be ousted from the hotel and would have nowhere to live.’
Mrs Miles resigned from her job in May 2018. In her resignation later she said: ‘The unreasonable working conditions, scant help, long daily hours covering several departments, no day off or minimum wage for three years do not augur well for my future at the Great Western Hotel.’
In total, Mrs Miles won £55,194 for unauthorised deductions to her wages, compensation for unfair dismissal, money for holiday not taken and compensation for injury to feelings as a result of the sexual harassment.
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