Human Rights Law Network


National Domestic Workers Welfare Trust vs Union of India

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Domestic workers remain excluded from the very scope of labour legislation of some countries, including India. The specificity of the employment relationship is simply not addressed by the legislative enactment but the same specificity is relied upon – at the level of common practice to justify denying them their status as ‘real workers' entitled to the legislative protection that exists. Their working conditions in essence remain unregulated. Even the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, does not include domestic workers. This petition seeks the enactment a comprehensive legislation to protect the service conditions of domestic workers throughout the country.

 

 

 

Case Details and Status

Domestic workers remain excluded from the very scope of labour legislation of some countries, including India. The specificity of the employment relationship is simply not addressed by the legislative enactment but the same specificity is relied upon – at the level of common practice to justify denying them their status as ‘real workers' entitled to the legislative protection that exists. Their working conditions in essence remain unregulated. Even the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, does not include domestic workers. This petition seeks the enactment a comprehensive legislation to protect the service conditions of domestic workers throughout the country.

Case details and status

Though the nature of work underwent significant changes with innovations in technologies, yet the conditions in which a domestic worker works remain unchanged. Subjected to undignified living and working conditions, they are paid paltry wages (less than minimum wage in most cases). There are no minimum wages fixed and domestic workers do not fall within the purview of the Minimum Wages Act, the employers are free to pay what they feel is necessary.

Domestic Workers in India are often forced or bonded labourers. In the absence of labour laws to protect them, they have no right to workers' compensation, weekly holidays and minimum wages. India has ratified various International such as the Convention on Rights of Child, which outlaws child servitude as well as slavery, however studies reveal that a large number of domestic workers are under the minimum working age of 14, and are forced to work as many as 18 hours a day. They continue to be denied their right to free and compulsory education or a viable alternative for survival.

Domestic workers fall within the definition of unorganized labour. Uneducated women and children make up 90% of the domestic workforce. In absence of social security measures their wages are often below the prescribed minimum, they have long hours of work, oppressive working and living conditions, are often verbally, physically and sexually abused by employers or by household members and have minimal security as they could be dismissed without a notice.

The petition aims not only at protecting rights of Domestic Workers but also all children forced to work in this field. The aim is to give domestic workers the same status as regular workers and consolidate existing laws in their favour. The petitioner, the National Domestic Workers Welfare Trust (NDWWT) campaigns for the recognition of the rights of Domestic Workers and has played an instrumental role in drafting the ‘Domestic workers Conditions of Service Bill' of 1996. Such a bill will offer Domestic Workers legal protection against exploitation.

The petition addressed these issues and seeks directions for a minimum level of protection to domestic workers as guaranteed under the Constitution of India, which would include:
a) Comprehensive legislation to protect the rights of domestic workers is enacted,
b) Minimum wage for domestic workers
c) Schemes for benefits of domestic workers such as payment of wages, weekly holidays and medical assistance
d) Safety of women and children employed as domestic workers.

The petition sought orders directing the respondents to enact comprehensive legislation to protect the rights of Domestic Workers. In response to this petition, the Central Government has submitted that the Unorganised Sector Workers Bill, 2004 will include provisions for the safety, social security, health and welfare of Unorganised Sector Workers including domestic workers. Previous to the petition the Domestic Worker's were not included in the schedule of employment in the Unorganised Sector Workers Bill, 2004.

 

Orders and Documents

SC_Order_07-04-2006
(PDF 114.546 KB)

SC_Order_08-04-2005
(PDF 59.863 KB)

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