Questions raised over national policy for domestic workers

Last Updated : 19 May 2013, 11:27 IST
Last Updated : 19 May 2013, 11:27 IST

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A new policy to give certain rights to domestic workers has run into hurdles with questions being raised by certain ministries over provisions like formation of trade unions.

Apprehensions have been expressed that if domestic workers are allowed to set up unions, it could lead to law and order situation and other complications.

The National Policy for Domestic Workers was discussed last week at a Cabinet meeting where differing views came to the fore. It was then decided that further deliberations were needed to evolve a common position.

The policy seeks to give the workers the right over minimum wages, paid leave and regulated working hours among others. It also proposes to bestow on them the right to form trade unions.

The passage of the policy will not only help India fulfil one of the ILO conventions on better working conditions for domestic workers, but also place it among a handful of countries such as Uruguay, the Philippines and Mauritius which have ratified the convention.

Sources said the Union Cabinet suggested studying the policies adopted by these countries in detail before arriving at a decision.

According to estimates, 6.4 million domestic workers stand to benefit out of the policy. Besides, its approval could follow with amendment to some of the existing laws such as Minimum Wages Act, Trade Union Act and Employees Compensation Act.

The proposal, recommended by National Advisory Council in April 2009, aims at bringing domestic workers under the purview of existing labour laws, thus providing them all the rights and protection available to other workers.

NAC Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that the proposed policy should ensure remuneration without sex discrimination and protection against sexual harassment at work place to the target group.

The Labour and Employment Ministry had set up a task- force to frame the policy spelling out a comprehensive social coverage such as paid annual leave and sick leave, protection from sexual harassment and social security coverage for benefit of the domestic workforce.

The NAC had suggested coverage for domestic workers under social security as provided in the Unorganised Sector Social Security Act, 2008. It had also suggested safe working environment and protection from accidents.

Published 19 May 2013, 11:27 IST

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