An aristocrat has been branded ‘malicious and cynical’ by a senior judge after he lost a two year legal battle to avoid paying £26,000 compensation to two female employees he discriminated against because they were pregnant.
Sir Benjamin Slade first lost his case against Melissa Biggs and Roxanne Stewart in 2019 after a tribunal found he carried out ‘one of the most egregious acts of discrimination possible’.
The ‘nasty’ baronet, who withheld their maternity pay and accused them of timing their pregnancies to ‘spite’ him, was then ordered to pay £179,500 compensation to the women.
However, he has since failed to pay a £26,500 ‘uplift’ fee from the sum, which the tribunal imposed due to his behaviour being so exceptional, and has dragged out the legal battle for another two years by launching an appeal.
The figure was ‘too high’, moaned the multi-millionaire and ex-stockbroker who is a descendant of Alfred the Great.
But now, a High Court judge has rejected the 75-year-old’s appeal and accused him of ‘malice’ in not following employment practices laid down by the workplace rules organisation Acas.
Sir Benjamin Slade, pictured at his home in Somerset, was ordered to pay out £150,000 to two female former employees after they won a sexual discrimination case against him
Melissa Biggs, pictured above with 18-month-old daughter Maisie, had her maternity pay withheld after Sir Benjamin claimed she had times her pregnancy to ‘spite’ him
Roxanne Stewart, pictured with daughter Berrie, fell pregnant at a similar time to Mrs Briggs and was not paid any maternity pay
Mr Justice Griffiths said his arguments were ‘unconvincing’, saying the ‘uplift’ was totally justified.
‘The failure to comply with either the letter or the essence of the ACAS Codes appears, from the factual findings of the (tribunal) which I have summarised, to have been exceptionally cynical and, indeed, malicious’, he said.
Sir Benjamin, also described as ‘arrogant and misogynistic’, previously advertised for a young ‘breeder’ wife who could give him two sons and was ‘castle trained’ to run his two estates.
One of his estates, Maunsel House – a 17-bedroom 13th century manor house in 1,300 acres of land in the West Country – was put on the market for £30 million this year.
His other country property, 17th century Woodlands Castle in Taunton, Somerset, was at the centre of his long-running legal battle with Mrs Biggs and Ms Stewart.
In July this year, he reportedly got engaged to Sahara Sunday Spain, daughter of Johnny Spain, a member of the Black Panthers who was jailed for murder.
Woodlands Castle, a 17th century country house near Taunton, Somerset, which Sir Benjamin owns and hires out for functions. Mrs Biggs and Ms Stewart had both worked there as event planners up until their pregnancies
In 2017, Mrs Biggs and Ms Stewart, both aged 28 and event planners at leafy Woodlands Castle, fell pregnant.
A tribunal heard as a result of Sir Benjamin’s mistreatment, both had premature births due to the stress he put them under.
Mrs Biggs did not receive maternity pay in November 2017 and Ms Stewart, who had worked for Sir Benjamin at Woodlands straight from school, was not paid.
When Ms Stewart complained, Sir Benjamin called maternity pay ‘fucking entitlements’ and also told another at Woodlands the pair timed their pregnancies to ‘spite him’.
He threatened to report them to the police for theft, maliciously blamed their premature births on their smoking and drinking before pregnancy, and described Mrs Biggs’ premature birth as ‘dropping’ her baby.
Both women were driven out of the business, with Ms Stewart fired two days before Christmas on the day she brought her premature baby daughter home from hospital.
Ms Stewart was then given a letter stating her employment ended on December 4, the day she gave birth.
Sir Benjamin was ordered to pay £179,500 compensation to Melissa Biggs, left, and Roxanne Stewart, right, on discrimination grounds
A tribunal report said: ‘Sir Benjamin found their becoming pregnant at roughly the same time as highly inconvenient and he thereafter decided to dispense with their services and thus avoid the inconvenience of hiring temporary staff to stand in, in their absence.
‘Sir Benjamin decided to engineer their departure from their employment.’
In particular, Ms Stewart was subjected ‘to an entirely spurious and vindictive ‘disciplinary’ process, designed to drive her from the business, at a point both before she gave birth prematurely and within the weeks following that birth, when her baby was in intensive care’, the tribunal found.
The report added Sir Benjamin made ‘blatantly discriminatory remarks about women’ and ‘wide-ranging and lurid allegations without any substantiation’ and allegations were ‘absolutely trumped up’.
The women, who were both left in dire financial and emotional situations after the ordeal, won claims of unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination at the 2017 tribunal in Bristol.
Ms Stewart was awarded £108,744 and Mrs Biggs £70,760.
Sir Benjamin appealed a £26,500 uplift fee at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London, but The Honourable Mr Justice Griffiths rejected his case.
Sir Benjamin claimed the figure was ‘too high in absolute terms to be proportionate or acceptable’.
After failing to pay the women an ‘uplift’ fee, Sir Benjamin launched an appeal which was then rejected by a High Court judge who accused the 75-year-old of ‘malice’ in not following employment practices laid down by the workplace rules organisation Acas
A third woman allegedly discriminated against by Sir Benjamin, 19-year-old events worker Jessica Cooper-Hogan, brought claims of sex discrimination.
The aristocrat settled out of court with her earlier this year.
Controversial Sir Benjamin made headlines in 2019 when he made a public search to find a wife who could provide him with male heirs.
He asked for a ‘breeder’ who was taller than 5ft 6in, but preferably 6ft 1in, aged between 30 and 40, possesses a gun licence and who was ‘castle trained’.
It is not the first time the heir-less baronet has made such public appeals.
He has offered £50,000 ‘pocket money’ for a suitable woman, plus a car, house, expenses, food and holidays, so long as she can provide him with two sons.
This year, Sir Benjamin reportedly began a relationship with a 29 year old woman.
Who is Sir Benjamin Slade? The eccentric who once advertised for the ‘perfect breeder’ as his wife
Sir Benjamin Slade, 72, inherited his baronetcy from his father in 1962, and lives in Maunsel House in Bridgwater, Somerset.
Recently he announced he was planning to sell off England’s largest private nature reserve, a 398-acre plot on the Somerset Levels.
The new owner will take the title Wardwick of the North Moor, which was created by Alfred the Great in 878 while he stayed in the area.
Sir Benjamin Slade at his home, Maunsel House in Somerset. He inherited his baronetcy from his father in 1962
Eccentric Sir Benjamin made headlines last year after publicising his search for a wife who can provide him with two sons.
His eyebrow-raising list of requirements for the perfect ‘breeder’ stated she should be `taller than 5ft6in, preferably 6ft1in or 6ft2in’, aged between 30 and 40, possess a gun licence and be ‘castle trained’.
Sir Benjamin, who made his fortune as a shipping magnate, was also in the public eye in 2012 after police staged a dramatic raid on his home, which saw him charged with possessing a firearm without a certificate and breaching a shotgun certificate by leaving a weapon unsecured.
He said he used the shotgun to shoot at foxes from his bedroom window.
The descendant of King George IV said he wants a ‘lady of the house’ who is happy with £50,000 a month ‘pocket money’.