In June 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party government announced the formation of a committee to look into ways to “regulate the working conditions of domestic workers in Delhi“. In September that year, the panel’s report was unanimous on the urgent need for an exclusive legislation to protect the rights of this growing workforce. Two years later, there is no draft of such legislation.Even the law being drafted to regulate the operations of private placement agencies is just b
eing finalised and will likely reach the Delhi cabinet ina couple of months.
Trade unionist Ramendra Kumar, president, Delhi Gharelu Kamgar Sangathan, said that the growing instances of attacks on d
stic workers and violation of their rights to decent wages is clearly due to the absence of laws to protect them.
Having been in the committee set up by Delhi government in 2015, he was dismayed by the delay in enacting the sorely needed legislation.“I am disappointed at the lack of decisive action to protect the rights and secure the domestic workers, most of whom are women,“ Kumar said.
At the nationa
l level too, it is only now that a draft National Policy for Domestic Workers is taking shape. Earlier, in 2011, a poli
cy for domestic
workers caught the public attention, but faded away. The latest labour department draft estimates the number of people working as domestic helps at 2-2.5% of the population on. Last week, the union ministry of labour consulted stakeholders on the draft law with the ultimate aim being to “formalise domestic work and bring it at par with the formal workforce“.The draft policy says that “the central and state governments shall … institutionalise a social protection floor and ensure domestic workers are able to exercise their labour rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of India“.
In Delhi, the committee set up by the AAP government, headed by Shalimar Bagh MLA and then deputy Speaker Bandana Kumari with representatives from voluntary organisations, trade unions and the International Labour Organization as members, first sat on July 17, 2015. The records of the proceedings show that all members agreed that the working conditions of domestic workers were pathetic because of a lack of a specific law to regulate their services.
In the report submitted in September that year, the panel pointed out that existing legislations such the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, had significant gaps in establishing and regulating working conditions of domestic helps (working hours, overtime, leave provision, dispute redress, etc). It recommended, therefore, a comprehensive legislation exclusively for domestic workers. It advised that while the new rules were being framed, a chapter could be incorporated in the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act to deal with domestic workers.
The committee suggested that the creation of a database and reg
istration of both workers and employers and recommended fixing of payment for domestic work (full time, part time and live-in) under the Minimum Wages Act, calculated on hourly basis for the hours of duty performed.
For live-in workers, the committee recommended minimum rate wages for eight active hours of work, stand-by hours and overtime, along with free lodging and boarding. It also suggested employment cards for domestic workers so they could avail social security benefits. The panel was keen on skill-development centres to upgrade the capacities of domestic workers.
Amod Kanth, chairman, Domestic Worker Sector Skill Council, said, “States must take a cue from Jharkhand which is on its way to becoming the first state to effect legislation to regulate not just placement agencies but also protect domestic worker.“
Kanth was optimistic that a national policy and state laws would also help check human trafficking and prevent exploitation of women who seeks work as domestic helps.