ILO moves to institutionalise leave for domestic workers



• Welcomes efforts to promote inclusive growth

The lack of legislations that prescribes leave from work for certain hours or days in a year is gap stakeholders must move quickly to address, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said.

The global labour watch body said more than half of domestic workers worldwide still do not have any legal right to weekly limits on working hours, which it is now advocating to ensure the right to sufficient rest for domestic workers.

An ILO fact sheet shows the grim reality faced by many domestic workers throughout the world, regarding time spent working. It especially focuses on the difficult conditions experienced by live-in domestic workers who, in some countries, work more than 60 hours per week with no legislation regulating their right for adequate rest.

ILO experts stress the negative impacts on health for domestic workers working excessively long hours with little or no rest, sometimes combined with insufficient and interrupted sleep. They note research showing it can lead to the increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression, to mention only a few.

They point out that physical and mental fatigue resulting from working excessive hours not only affects workers’ ability to perform their tasks but can also lead to increased risks of workplace accidents.

The authors of the fact sheet noted: “Working long hours makes it difficult for domestic workers to maintain proper work-life balance.”

The ILO publication shines light on the difficult situations experienced by live-in domestic workers, who are often expected to be available 24 hours a day to respond to various needs of their employers.

The report explains: “Not even an uninterrupted nightly rest is guaranteed for live-in domestic workers, especially those with care responsibilities for children, elders, sick or disabled family members, whose sleep is often interrupted to provide unscheduled care in addition to their daily tasks.”

On his part, Chief of the ILO’s Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch, Philippe Marcadent said: “Domestic workers are a prominent example of groups of workers who still lack this essential human right which is the right to rest.

“Regulating working time for domestic workers can be complex due the fact their workplace is often a private home. The Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No 189) has been a major step forward to improve domestic workers’ rights.”

ILO stressed the need for the rule to be respected, saying in pursuant to Convention No. 189, domestic workers should benefit from equal treatment as compared to other workers in respect of working time, including the right to rest. A minimum of 24 consecutive hours of weekly rest should be guaranteed to them.

One basis for improvement could be to use guidance provided by the EU Directive on working time that has set a minimum standard of 11 consecutive hours of daily rest. Introducing this “11/24 rule” at the national level could be the first step towards effective protection of domestic workers’ right to rest.

The ILO publication includes an infographic that provides other examples of good practice. For instance in Chile, live-in domestic workers now have a right to 12 hours daily rest, of which 9 need to be consecutive, and both Saturday and Sunday off. Working hours of domestic workers living outside their employers’ home are limited to 45 hours per week, with a maximum of six working days.

ILO hinted that it is currently conducting research into good practices at the national level, which should lead to the publication of a policy brief with concrete suggestions on ways to effectively protect the right to rest for domestic workers.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, has welcomed a call by the Federal Chancellor of Germany and the Head of international organizations to strengthen efforts to promote decent work and inclusive growth ‘drawing on the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda’, with a special emphasis on better implementation of labour, social and environmental standards.

“I am pleased that we renewed our commitment to create good and safe work conditions, rising incomes and real prospects for all who want to work while simultaneously promoting gender equality,” said Ryder at the end of a meeting in Berlin with Chancellor Merkel, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.

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