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Nottingham Post
Nottingham Post
Simon Murphy & Joel Moore

MP and wife's housekeeper was 'treated like a slave' before having to take legal action

The housekeeper of a Conservative MP claimed she was treated like a slave, suffered insults, was reduced to tears and had to take legal action against the politician’s wife to get paid. Hazel Settas revealed she was given rigid instructions on answering the phone within four rings, how long to run the tap – and even how to arrange avocados in the fruit bowl.

She says she “worked like a dog” for ex-justice minister Jonathan Djanogly and wife Rebecca. Mr Djanogly is the son of Harry Djanogly, a businessman who made his fortune with a Nottingham manufacturing company.

The live-in housekeeper was on duty from 7am to 7pm – but sometimes worked to 11pm, reports the Mirror. But Hazel, 32, claims Mr Djanogly, 57 – MP for Huntingdon, Cambs, from a family worth £300million – looked down on her as “not even a human”. And his wife, claims Hazel, allegedly said: “My husband’s an MP, you’re worthless.”

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Hazel is one of two women who successfully took Mrs Djanogly – under her maiden name of Silk – to court for pay due to them. The second woman even sought help from the Salvation Army’s modern slavery unit. A judge concluded pay had been withheld in both cases. The women worked at the MP’s £7million West London home after answering Gumtree ads for a £20,000-a-year housekeeper.

Hazel, who was employed in 2020, told the Sunday Mirror: “It was slavery... especially when she used to click her fingers, that’s slavery right there... I’ve got a name, use my name. I did feel angry, devastated actually. I applied for a role that turned out to be something else.

“I just had to bow down to anything she said. I couldn’t speak up. The easiest way to describe it is how you think a slave would work.” Hazel says she once told Rebecca: “You can’t treat people like this. This is worse than a slave, this is worse than prison.”

She said she also asked the MP for her help, but none was forthcoming. Hazel was given a folder detailing her tasks. She went on: “I worked sometimes to 10 or 11 at night to complete all tasks because I would be told off if I didn’t complete them. There were pages and pages of tasks. I felt like I was working in a prison. I would break down in my room.”

Of going unpaid, Hazel said: “I was shocked she would behave like that when her husband was an MP. That was why I asked him to help me but he didn’t. And that was why I had to take her to court to get the money I was owed. You don’t expect an MP to have that treatment going on in his house.”

Hazel said the MP’s wife would shout “hurry up, hurry up” at her. She also claimed Ms Silk told her: “If you lose weight, you’ll be quicker.... this is my house, this is my rules, if you don’t like it you know where the door is.” Hazel – who quit after a fortnight – continued: “One time when I got something wrong she made me pull out the folder. She made me sit there and read out the whole folder out loud and I was crying and she went, ‘stop crying, grow up and carry on reading’.”

The housekeeper also said of Mr Djanogly: “He’s looking down at me as in, you know, I’m a housekeeper, that’s it, I’m nothing else. Not even a human, I’m just a housekeeper.” Hazel said she wrote to the MP to chase unpaid wages.

Mr Djanogly – who once went on the record with concerns about modern day slavery – replied by email: “Sorry to see that things did not work out for you. I am neither the employing person nor do I have knowledge of the issues you discuss in your message. The employer is Ms Rebecca Silk.” Hazel spoke out after judgments concluded she and the other housekeeper had been denied earnings.

A judge ordered Hazel be paid £886. Hazel said she was first offered a £150 settlement by Ms Silk via the ACAS service. But she rejected the deal, which came with a confidentiality clause.

In the case of the second housekeeper, a written judgment declared Ms Silk, 56, “sought to deprive” her “of important rights available to workers and employees”.

The woman, who we are not naming, worked in an identical role as housekeeper in the spring and summer of 2021. After the judgment last June, she was awarded £3,148 in unauthorised wage deductions, overtime and annual leave. Ms Silk had denied unlawful deductions and any holiday pay shortfall.

The judgment said the housekeeper had to follow detailed orders. These dictated “the rotation of avocados between the fruit bowl and the fridge”, “counting cutlery”, “how to carry items from the coffee table to the sink”, and “how to clean stools”, it was said.

Instructions for how to do laundry ran to a page-and-a-half, including “setting alarms and sending texts about collection of dirty clothes”. The woman was described as “an impressive witness” by the judge. After leaving her job at the Djanogly home she sought help from the modern slavery support unit at the Salvation Army. She quit her job after being off sick for four days and was offered emergency accommodation by the charity.

Case paperwork says the woman had only £80 to her name when she took the job at the Djanogly home. In her case, the judgment says that “unknown to the claimant, the respondent was monitoring her work on CCTV”. The housekeeper was required to be home at 11pm on any night before she had work the next day. It was also understood that she would be within 15 minutes’ walk of the Djanogly home at other times.

The judge said: “The whole picture is of the respondent retaining a very substantial degree of control over the claimant.” The judge concluded there were £2,203 of unauthorised deductions, plus £481 of holiday pay and £463 breach of contract overtime due.

Mr Djanogly – son of textiles tycoon and art collector Sir Harry Djanogly – did not respond to a request for comment and yesterday there was no answer at his home in West London. The Conservative Party declined to comment.

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