Domestic help abroad to be paid as per that country’s laws: draft policy

This provision was incorporated following the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs’ suggestion.

New Delhi | Updated: January 21, 2014 9:24 am

Amid the debate over the underpayment of Indian domestic helps engaged by Indian diplomats abroad in the wake of the Devyani Khobragade case, the UPA government is formulating a policy under which India will accept the prevalence of the host country’s wage laws.

The draft National Policy for Domestic Workers, providing for minimum wages and the right to form unions and associations to domestic helps, states that it “shall not affect any more favourable provisions applicable to domestic or migrant workers under other bilateral/ multilateral instruments/ treaties or foreign legislations, policies, programmes or schemes”.

This provision was incorporated following the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs’ suggestion that the “national laws of the destination country will apply to the domestic workers who work abroad”.

The Union Cabinet, which took up the proposed policy on Monday, decided to refer it to a Group of Ministers after it was pointed out that the provision for giving these workers the right to form unions and associations would have to be extended to the unorganised sector also.

The Cabinet note stated that domestic workers who are recruited to work overseas must be protected from abuse and exploitation. Legislations and policies need to ensure that domestic workers taking up jobs abroad or accompanying their employers abroad shall be appropriately briefed and made aware about their rights and privileges in the country of work, it said.

According to the proposed policy, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Employment, must set up a mechanism to ensure potential migrant domestic workers receive written job offers or contracts, addressing the terms and conditions of employment, before going abroad. The terms and conditions must be explained to the worker in a language that is understood by him/ her.

The proposed mechanism must include measures to ensure that domestic workers are briefed about the helpline numbers or contact points such as embassies, names and addresses of civil society organisations/ workers’ organisations in the country of work which can provide assistance in case of infringment of rights or abuse.

The policy proposes to include domestic workers, whether working full-time or part-time, in the appropriate existing labour legislations. They would have the right to fair terms of employment relating to payment of minimum wages, access to social security, protection from abuse, harrassment and violence. They would also have the right to enhance their professional skills and employment opportunities. A mechanism is proposed to be set up for regulation of placement agencies too.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment would be responsible for setting up a mechanism to implement the policy.

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  1. H
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    Reply
    1. G
      George
      Jan 21, 2014 at 2:12 am
      Good move. It looks like Indian government got the message.
      Reply
      1. G
        George
        Jan 21, 2014 at 1:53 am
        Great move on the part of India. If this announcement came in the middle of December, instead of all the retaliations, may be the State department would have been lenient and given Devyani retroactive immunity, which is given very rarely.
        Reply
        1. A
          Av Bagur
          Jan 21, 2014 at 11:32 am
          May be we should ask UPSC to introduce an "International Maids Service" (IMS) on lines of IFS so that India has a better image
          Reply
          1. J
            juju
            Jan 21, 2014 at 12:17 pm
            Meanwhile, the U.S is arguing with the Indonesian govt that it will pay it's indonesian drivers in accordance with International law, and wontpay the severance package in accordance with Indonesian Law. rofl.
            Reply
            1. K
              ksmat
              Jan 21, 2014 at 11:58 am
              90 percent of the people living in the US (for example) do NOT have full time domestic help. Part time help for those that have it is only for yard work or house cleaning - and that is task oriented, usually once a week or fortnight.Having help is NOT a birthright.
              Reply
              1. F
                friq
                Jan 21, 2014 at 2:25 am
                No one is commenting about this good step. I guess it's not juicy enough.
                Reply
                1. I
                  Indian
                  Jan 21, 2014 at 5:33 am
                  Are we paying the Indian diplomat as per US law first? If not, how the maid will get paid as per US law?
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    rationalist
                    Jan 21, 2014 at 5:54 am
                    While the proposal is a fair one, I would have liked to see the government abolish the practice of these lazy diplomats taking an entourage of servants with them in their overseas ignment at the expense of the Indian taxpayer.
                    Reply
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                      Jan 21, 2014 at 6:36 am
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                      1. B
                        bhagawan
                        Jan 21, 2014 at 1:21 am
                        This sensible proposal by the MEA vindicates the charges brought against Devyani and a couple of her predecessors that they had treated their maids inhumanly. After this step, the MEA should first brief all diplomats going abroad on how to treat their maids with dignity (instead of as slaves/bonded labor brought from India who or whose family back in India could be threatened or hared in other ways as happened to Sangeetha Richards). They should also be warned that they will have no diplomatic immunity to hide behind in such matters and should face the host country's justice system instead of being recalled and if it results in conviction, they are unworthy of being India's Reps. abroad and should be fired immediately with loss of all benefits.
                        Reply
                        1. V
                          Vijay
                          Jan 21, 2014 at 3:16 am
                          Finally, India is taking steps to prevent future such occurences.
                          Reply
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