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Changes That MUST Be Done To The New Policy For Your Domestic Help

  • JWB Post
  •  September 23, 2015


The govt. last week announced a draft policy for domestic workers talking about their timetable, work regulation, social security & wages.

The government has confirmed that it will not ratify (International Labour Organization) ILO’s domestic workers convention No. 189 (C 189) on decent work. The proposed policy, though a step forward, is far from providing legal protection to domestic workers.

A meaningful law needs –

Definition of Domestic Worker: There is no mention of the definition for domestic workers, leaving the term open to undermining the invisibility of this work.

The fact that it is difficult to prove employment relations in a household, makes it essential to build a process of registration of domestic workers by a government agency, thereby establishing their legal identity.

This is also needed to enforce the employment contract between a domestic worker and an employer so that there is a viable mechanism for establishing an employer-employee relation in domestic work.

The draft policy, however, includes the possibility of a third-party intermediary between the employers and the workers that is not clearly defined. This opens up the possibility of private agencies acting as labour contractors, hence blurring the existing direct employer-employee relation.

Regulation of Placement Agencies: Registration of placement agencies should be mandatory under the Shops and Establishments Act, 1953, till a suitable legal mechanism is formulated to monitor such agencies.

This mushrooming of such agencies in urban centres has already led to a spurt in human trafficking, child labour, physical and sexual abuse, and denial of just wages.

The regulation should include overseas employers and placement agencies ‘supplying’ workers to overseas employers.

The new policy is opaque on the nature of third-party intermediaries between workers and employers. It seems to be institutionalising a framework of control of domestic workers by placement agencies.

The policy and the legislation should ensure adequate machinery and procedures for the investigation of complaints, alleged abuses and fraudulent practices concerning the activities of private employment agencies in relation to domestic workers.

Conditions of Work: Given the specificity of the employment, the policy should explicitly ensure that domestic workers – like any other worker – enjoy fair terms of employment as well as decent working conditions. If they reside in the household, decent living conditions should be provided that respect their privacy. The employment contract should specify:

  • the names and addresses of the employer and the worker
  • the address of the usual workplace or workplaces
  • the starting date and, in case the contract is for a specified period, the duration
  • the type of work
  • the remuneration, method of calculation and periodicity of payments
  • the normal hours of work and overtime payment
  • paid annual leave of at least 1 month, and daily rest periods and weekly off
  • the provision of food and accommodation, if applicable
  • the terms of repatriation, if applicable
  • terms and conditions relating to the termination of employment, including any period of notice by either the domestic worker or the employer

Grievance Redressal: The government said there would be a grievance redressal mechanism, but we are not aware of its contents. It should include specific punitive measures for violations of the provisions of this policy.

This will provide a basis for filing complaints in cases of violation, empowering domestic workers to seek redressal.

The policy should also put in place specific measures to ensure that domestic workers, either by themselves or through their union, have effective access to courts and other dispute resolution mechanisms.

The govt proposes a minimum wage of Rs 9,000; all trade unions have sought Rs 15,000; can the govt say why is that not possible?

Social Security: Domestic workers must be brought under the coverage of the Provident Fund Act and the Employees State Insurance.

Inspection of Workplace: The policy should also include specific measures for labour inspection, enforcement and penalties, given the special characteristics of domestic work making it in many instances even invisible and hence more exploitative.

Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: Finally, in accordance to the spirit of C189 of the ILO, the policy and the legislation should clearly create conditions to promote freedom of association and collective bargaining of the domestic workers.

The stated minimum wage of Rs 9,000 for skilled full-time domestic workers is far from an acceptable wage. All trade unions have demanded a universal minimum wage of Rs. 15,000 per month, based on today’s prices.

Do you want to add more points? Write to us.

This article was first published on Catch News.

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