Tribunal finds woman who worked unpaid for 20 years was constructively unfairly dismissed

tribunal constructively unfairly dismissedAn employment tribunal has found that a woman who worked unpaid at her family’s shop for 20 years was constructively unfairly dismissed after her employer falsely declared wage payments to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

P Mehat, a wife and mother of two, began working Monday to Saturday in the Premier convenience store in Six Bells in Blaenau Gwent, Wales, owned by her parents-in-law, in 2002. She worked a minimum of 40 hours per week assisting with deliveries, working on the till, ordering goods and serving customers.

She repeatedly asked to receive a wage but was refused, and there were no records kept of her working hours. From 2018 until October 2022, her husband made declarations to HMRC that she was earning a wage of around £12,500 per year, but she was unaware.

Mehat, her husband, who in 2018 became a shareholder and director of the shop’s limited company alongside P Mehat, said she was allowed to take money from the till whenever she wished, but she argued that she could not without express permission.

In February 2022, she left for her maternal family home in Huddersfield. After a discussion with her husband, it was agreed that she would start receiving a wage of £250 per week, amounting to £6.25 an hour for a 40-hour week. This was paid in cash, there were no pay slips and no records of the payments. She still had to ask for the wages, which were not prepared in pay packets with pay slips as the shop’s other employees had.

P Mehat was also denied time off and her husband was absent from the shop for four hours each day. The wages stopped in October and she resigned. She then discovered that it had falsely been reported to HMRC that she had been paid wages since 2018.

On 12 November, P Mehat was removed as a director without her knowledge or approval and a month later her shares were transferred to her son, however this was then reversed on 22 March 2023.

Employment judge S Moore said: “We have no hesitation in concluding the claimant was constructively unfairly dismissed for the reason or principal reason that she took action to enforce her right to the national minimum wage. It was being declared that she was receiving wages when none were in fact paid to her. We have concluded that this was done on the ground that the respondent realised upon incorporation that the claimant qualified, or will or might have qualified, for the national minimum wage.

“In our judgment it is plain that the catalyst for the respondent’s behaviour was that the claimant had started to ask for wages and repeatedly asked to be paid or be paid properly and this materially influenced the respondent’s treatment of the claimant.”