The government is planning to formulate a national policy for domestic workers with an aim to expand the scope of applicable legislation, policies and schemes such as minimum wages, social security and skill development programmes. The ministry has invited views of all stakeholders and general comments on the National Policy for Domestic Workers till November 16, according to a notice by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The new policy proposes to clearly define part-time workers, full-time workers, live in workers and employers and private placement agencies.
The new draft policy, however, does not prescribe a minimum wage for a domestic worker, although the earlier draft a couple of years ago had proposed a minimum salary of Rs 9,000 per month for the skilled full-time domestic help along with benefits including social security cover and mandatory leave.
As per the notice, the policy intends to set up an institutional mechanism for social security cover, fair terms of employment, grievance redressal and dispute resolution. It provides for recognising domestic workers as a worker with the right to register themselves with state labour department or any other suitable mechanism. It also aims to expand the scope of existing legislation, policies and schemes to grant domestic workers rights that are enshrined in laws for other category of workers including minimum wage, equal remuneration, etc.
The policy proposes to promote the rights of domestic workers to organise and form their own unions/associations and affiliate with other unions/associations. The policy will also provide for model contract of employment with well defined period of work and rest along with regulation of the recruitment and placement agencies by respective governments through formulation of a policy.
The labour ministry notice also states that the policy proposes to have tripartite implementation committees at Centre, state and district levels.
The category of domestic workers has largely remained outside the ambit of labour laws in India, often making them vulnerable to exploitation and violence. Earlier this year in July, a group of domestic workers had carried out stone pelting in Noida’s Mahagun Moderne residential society over the alleged beating up of a 26-year-old domestic help by her employers, who in turn had accused her of theft.
Domestic workers are not included in the scope of the current labour laws because of the constraints in the definition of either the ‘workmen’, ‘employer’ or ‘establishment’. The nature of work, the specificity of the employee-employer relationship and the work in private households instead of public and private establishments, makes the coverage of domestic workers under the existing laws more challenging.
To include the domestic workers under the labour laws, the definitions will have to be amended. The labour laws treat only establishments, mines and factories, as workplaces. Private homes are treated as private spheres beyond the reach of these laws. The definition of the workmen or the employer also excludes the domestic workers from the scope of these laws and even the placement agencies get out from the ambit of the labour laws.