Domestic work is the housework undertaken by a person who is not a member of the family, to facilitate the running of domestic life and personal needs. The majority of domestic workers are female and increasingly migrant women. Workers assigned to the cleaning of public and private buildings are not included in this group.
Domestic work can be done full time (on either a residential or a non-residential basis), part time or per hour. In principle, pay and social benefits such as pension contributions, maternity and sick leave, weekly rest and paid holidays have to be granted in accordance with national law. The remuneration must be proportional to the quantity and quality of work, and can be paid monthly, weekly or daily; pay for migrant workers must be the same as for local workers.
A few ILO Conventions contain clauses that explicitly include or exclude domestic workers from their scope, but no Convention deals specifically with domestic workers. In general, ILO standards that are applicable to other categories of workers also apply to domestic workers. This is valid in particular for their rights to equal opportunity and treatment, to collective bargaining and to organize, to sickness insurance and minimum age. Other Conventions contain flexibility clauses allowing the ratifying countries to exclude particular categories of workers or establishments; this applies, for instance, to domestic workers' unemployment provision, maternity protection and restrictions concerning the night work of young people.
Domestic workers generally face the following problems: long hours of work; heavy workload; low salaries; exclusion from health schemes and cash benefits or protection against dismissal in case of maternity; lack of control by the labour authorities with respect to labour inspection and law enforcement; a weak collective bargaining position; and a high level of control by the employer. Resident domestic workers face additional problems of isolation, difficulty in organizing, a regimented lifestyle, poor living quarters, insufficient food, and lack of privacy. Violence at work, either physical or psychological, is also a common work hazard with which domestic workers are confronted.
→ see also Fundamental principles and rights at work, Maternity protection, Migrant workers and Social security/social protection
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