In a case which stands as a stern warning to the farming industry, a group of Eastern European agricultural workers who were underpaid, charged illegitimate fees and subjected to unlawful deductions from their wages have won the right to substantial compensation.
The six Lithuanians, all of whom had been recognised as human trafficking victims by the Home Office, had been employed to catch chickens at farms across the country. They launched proceedings against their former employers on the basis that, in performing that role, they had suffered severe labour exploitation.
The High Court found that the employers had no viable defence to a claim that the six had not been paid in accordance with the Agricultural Workers Order made under the Agricultural Wages Act 1948. Arguments that they had been unlawfully charged fees, or deductions made from their wages, in respect of basic facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink, were also unanswerable. Summary judgment was entered against the employers in respect of those issues.
Compensation due to the six for those breaches would be assessed at a later date and further claims – including that the accommodation provided to them was inadequate and that they had suffered mental and physical injuries as a result of their treatment – remained to be tried.