Published:  12:00 AM, 18 September 2023

Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers Should Be Ensured

Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers Should Be Ensured
From the rural extended families of Bangladesh to the ever-expanding urban life, family residences, messes, dormitories etc. are the main areas of employment for domestic workers. However, in consideration of the needs and greater financial benefits of the citizens living in the cities, the poor families of the marginal towns, mainly female domestic workers, a significant part of whom are teenagers or children, come from the village to engage in housework.

Although the overall tendency of children to be employed as domestic workers has decreased due to education stipends and government programs for unpaid female education, the trend of children from poverty-stricken areas continuing to come to the cities for domestic work continues. On the other hand, the trend of giving priority to the employment of female domestic workers as full-time domestic workers, especially teenage or child domestic workers is also noticeable as a result of considering women domestic workers as more advantageous in view of the overall security of the house and the loyalty towards the householder and household members.

Any incident like death or murder or suicide as a result of torture published in the media causes extreme pain to the sensitive human society. Considering the socio-economic context of the country, the government is committed to phase-by-step legal framework for domestic workers. In this context, the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy is considered as a milestone as the initial step towards comprehensive legislation for the protection and welfare of the large population engaged in domestic work.

According to Article 20 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, the right to work is a matter of rights, duties and dignity for every citizen who is able to work and the principle of remuneration of workers is “performance according to the ability of the worker and payment of labor according to the work done.'' Article 34 prohibits all forms of forced labor.

Articles 23, 24 and 25 mention the right to free choice of work in return for fair wages, fixed working hours, rest and recreation with temporary leave, healthful living, living with human dignity including family and social security based on the principle of equal pay for equal work for all workers. Analyzing the ongoing socio-economic context of the country, domestic workers are playing an important role in the country's economy by completing the necessary tasks of the family or home and creating an opportunity for the better professional responsibilities of the householder to be performed smoothly.

That is why the government feels the need to formulate a policy for the protection and welfare of the large population engaged in domestic work. Moreover, Bangladesh takes necessary preparations for the ratification of Convention-189 on Domestic Work adopted by the ILO. The policy provides guidance on working conditions and safety of domestic workers, decent working environment, livable wages and welfare with family and dignity, good relations between employers and domestic workers etc.

Aims and Objectives of the policy is to recognize and value domestic work as labor for the protection and welfare of all persons engaged in domestic work, to ensure decent work and safe working environment for domestic workers and to establish constitutionally recognized fundamental rights of citizens including rest, recreation and leave, to update and store their permanent address and workplace information.

Domestic worker means any person who performs domestic work in the employer's home on a part-time or full-time basis either verbally or in writing. In this case the mess or dormitory will also be considered as 'house'. Housework refers to assistance in cooking and related work, doing the shopping, keeping the house or yard clean and other household tasks generally recognized as household work.

Apart from this, work like washing clothes, caring for children living at home, sick, elderly or disabled persons will also be considered as household chores.

In order to ensure decent work and dignified living for domestic workers, the following matters should be followed in consideration of the wide range of occupations and socio-economic context.

(a) Determination of Wages: Wages shall be determined on the basis of negotiation between the parties. The employer shall ensure that the wage of the full-time domestic worker is suitable for living with the social status of the domestic worker's family. Maintenance and clothing of domestic workers will be treated as additional to wages.

(b) Wages of part-time domestic workers: Wages of part-time domestic workers will be determined on the basis of work or type of work or working hours. Subsistence and clothing provided to part-time domestic workers will be treated as additional to wages.

(c) Payment of Wages: The employer shall pay the wages of each month to the domestic worker by the 7th of the following month.
(d) Age of domestic worker: Provisions of 'Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006' should be followed for recruitment of domestic workers.

However, if an oral agreement or compromise or consensus is reached, it is preferable to complete the discussion in the presence of a third party acceptable to the domestic worker and the employer. During the detailed negotiations or in the contract or agreement, the following points shall be clearly mentioned: (a) Type of employment, (b) Date of employment, (c) Wages, (d) Rest hours and holidays, (e) Type of work, (f) Presence of domestic workers and eating, (g) dress and physical cleanliness of domestic workers and (h) obligations of domestic workers. Both parties will be obliged to comply with the terms and conditions mentioned in the appointment letter or agreement, but it should be noted that those terms and conditions are not contrary to the prevailing laws and policies of the country.

Considering the creation of new employment opportunities at relatively higher wages by sending domestic workers abroad, in addition to increasing remittances in the country, the relevant ministries/departments will take necessary initiatives to take special programs for training domestic workers and encourage the initiative of private organizations or individuals to start training institutions for domestic workers for the purpose of employment in the country or abroad.

Domestic workers shall not be subjected to any form of indecent treatment, physical injury, or mental abuse under any circumstances. If a domestic worker is subjected to any form of physical or mental abuse, such as obscenity, sexual harassment or sexual abuse or physical injury or intimidation by the employer, his family members or incoming guests, necessary measures shall be taken as per the prevailing laws of the country. The domestic worker shall not inflict any physical or mental torture or painful behavior on the members of her working family especially children, sick and elderly or any other member. In case of any such incident the employer can cancel his appointment and take action against him as per the prevailing laws of the country.

Md. Arafat Rahman is a
columnist and an official of Southeast University, Dhaka.

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