Hotel housekeeper paid £1.41 an hour wins £55,000 in compensation

Hotel housekeeper, 69, who was paid £1.41 an hour, refused holiday for three years and forced to sleep in a CELLAR is awarded £55K in compensation after her boss sexually harassed and treated her ‘like a servant’

  • Julie Miles worked 60-hour weeks cleaning and cooking at Great Western hotel
  • Manager Gary Hesp paid her just £84.92 a week plus accommodation
  • Tribunal heard she slept on chair in the cellar of the Abergavenny, Wales hotel
  • Ms Miles, 69, ‘unable to complain’ of servant-like treatment for fear of being fired
  • Also heard her manager ‘slid his arm around Mrs Miles’ waist on three occasions’
  • The pensioner, who resigned in 2018, has been awarded £55,000 compensation

An elderly hotel housekeeper has won more than £50,000 after her exploitative boss paid her just £1.41 an hour and made her sleep in a chair in the cellar.

For three years ‘trapped’ Julie Miles, 69, worked 60-hour weeks cleaning and cooking and was banned from taking a single day of holiday as she toiled at the Great Western hotel.

During her employment, owner and manager Gary Hesp paid her as little as £84.92 a week for her work plus ‘accommodation’, an employment tribunal was told.

But for a year this consisted of making her sleep in a chair in a laundry room in the basement of the hotel near Abergavenny in Wales.

Julie Miles, 69, worked 60-hour weeks for three years cleaning and cooking for as little as £1.41 an hour at the Great Western hotel in Abergavenny, Wales. She has now been awarded £55,000 in compensation

The tribunal heard she was vulnerable and had nowhere else to live.

The relationship between the housekeeper and her employers was ‘master and servant’ with Mrs Miles having to cater to Mr Hesp’s every ‘beck and call’ 24 hours a day, the tribunal found.

He was even said to have told her: ‘You worked last year without a day off – you can do it again.’

And the 67-year-old married manager also sexually harassed the pensioner by sliding his arm around her waist on three separate occasions.

Mrs Miles felt unable to complain out of fear of being fired. But now her boss has been ordered to pay her £55,000 after she won a series of claims against him at the tribunal.

The 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.

The hearing was told Mr Hesp knew Mrs Miles was in a vulnerable position because of her financial difficulties and he ‘exploited’ her circumstances.

He had a full time job as a bathroom salesman in Devon and Cornwall and used her 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.

In 2016 to 2017, the national minimum wage was £7.20 an hour and Mrs Miles hourly wage was £1.41, the tribunal found.

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.

And Mrs Miles was not given a single day of holiday by her boss, the hearing was told.

Mr Hesp reportedly said to her: ‘We can’t spare you. You worked last year without a day off – you can do it again.’

The tribunal heard Mrs Miles initially slept in a shared mixed dormitory when she started working at the hotel in 2015. But when that was let out, for over a year she slept in a chair in a cold laundry room in the cellar.

The tribunal found Mr Hesp ‘exploited’ his employee’s financial situation.

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.’

At all times during her employment with Mr Hesp, Mrs Miles was in a vulnerable position because of her financial difficulties and not having a home, the tribunal concluded.

‘We found Mr Hesp exploited Mrs Miles’ circumstances,’ the judgement said.

And Mr Hesp was also found to have sexually harassed Mrs Miles on three occasions by sliding his arm around her waist.

On each occasion, Mrs Miles stepped away to indicate she was not consenting to his inappropriate touching.

But the tribunal heard she felt powerless to say or do anything other than ignore the touching and pretend it did not happen.

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 letter, 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.

The Great Western hotel has been approached for comment.

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