Minimum wages for domestic help in offing

In what could change the lives of hundreds of domestic helps, the government is now contemplating to bring them under a structure that enables them minimum wages, protection from harassment and organise unions.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment is now in the process formulating a national policy for domestic workers and has sought views from public by mid-November after broadly defining the contours of the policy in a two-page public notice.

One of the main tasks of the policy is to “explicitly and effectively” expand the scope of applicable legislations, policies and schemes to “grant domestic workers rights that are enshrined in the laws for other category of workers”, including “minimum wages, equal remuneration”.

While Rs 9,000 as minimum wage for a full-time domestic help in a previous draft, the latest publicised notice does not mention any figure.

The formulation of a national policy would be of great relief for the domestic helps, as many of them fail to earn enough to run their family despite working for more than 12 hours a day and in different households. They also face harassment, both physical and psychological, too and there is no mechanism for their grievance redressal.

Officials said the policy that will be formulated would have such issues addressed and they expect that stakeholders, including experts and those working for the welfare of domestic helps, would come up with innovative ideas that could be incorporated in it.

According to the broad policy framework formulated by the Ministry, this policy should result in setting up an institutional mechanism which provide for social security cover, fair terms of employment, grievance redressal and dispute resolution.

The policy will also provide for model contract of employment with well defined period of work and rest. It also envisages access to social security benefits like health insurance, maternity benefits and old age pensions.

The policy could also touch upon promoting the rights to organise and form their own unions and associations and affiliate with other unions and associations. The domestic helps could also have the right to register themselves with state labour department or any other mechanism available.

Amid increasing incidents of placement agencies playing foul, the policy will also work out a regulatory mechanism for such recruitment institutions.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 18, 2017)

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