Friday, February 23, 2007

Home Office faces £2.5m payout for leaving translators idle for 15 years

Two interpreters who were paid to do nothing for 15 years are suing the Home Office for ruining their careers.
Marti Khan and Odette King are claiming more than £ 1.5million after blundering immigration officials apparently "forgot" they existed.
Mrs Khan, 48, and Mrs King, 57, were paid £25,000 a year to translate for new arrivals to the country at airports.
But managers failed to reassign them after the Home Office started outsourcing their duties to freelance interpreters in 1990.
The two women continued to turn up to work for 41 hours a week but said they were paid to "do nothing" or given "basic clerical duties" such as filing.
If they had not eventually complained of being underemployed and earning less than freelancers they could have stayed on until it was time to draw their pensions, an employment tribunal heard. Now taxpayers face a £2.5million bill after the tribunal ruled they were victims of race and sex discrimination.
Judge Jeremy McMullen, QC, criticised bosses at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate as "one of Britain's least impressive managements". He said the farce had involved more than 100 managers and human resources staff.
A panel at Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that the women had effectively been redundant since 1990. It said they had suffered race and sex discrimination and were unfairly dismissed.
It added: "What was striking was the Home Office's failure to grasp the nettle for a period of about 15 years.
"It seemed that if the claimants had not raised complaints about being under-utilised and paid less than freelance interpreters the situation may well have continued until their retirement.
"However, as professionals who were proud of their skills they did not find it acceptable that they were being paid to do very little."
Both women are British but Mrs Khan is of Indian origin while Mrs King comes from Iran.
22/02/07 This is London, UK
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