Hotel housekeeper made to sleep in chair and paid £1.41 an hour wins £55,000

A hotel worker paid just £1.41 an hour and forced to sleep in a chair in the cellar has won more than £50,000 at an employment tribunal.

She was also banned from taking any days off and was sexually harassed by her boss.

For three years Julie Miles worked 60-hour weeks cleaning and cooking in the Great Western hotel in Abergavenny in Wales.

Owner and manager Gary Hesp paid her as little as £84.92 a week for her work in return for 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.

The tribunal heard Miles was vulnerable and had nowhere else to live, according to the Solent News & Photo Agency.

The relationship between the housekeeper and her employers was “master and servant”, with Miles having to cater to 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.”

The 67-year-old married manager also sexually harassed Miles by sliding his arm around her waist on three occasions.

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

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 Miles began working at the £70-a-night hotel – owned by Hesp and his wife Loraine – at the end of 2014.

Part of her role had to clean almost the entire hotel on her own.

Every day 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 Hesp knew 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 working 60-hour weeks on average Miles was paid between £84 and £99, below the minimum wage.

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

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

The tribunal heard Miles 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 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 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.

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.