Problems Faced by Domestic Workers:
The difficulties that domestic workers face today are numerous and diverse. To develop sufficient safeguards against them, we must first understand their vulnerabilities and problems. Domestic workers, even very gifted individuals, might eventually be offered cash benefits based on a qualitative appraisal of their talents. In this case, the difficulties they face may be handled in a biased manner through litigation. Due to a delayed and overburdened judiciary, litigation is of little practical utility in India. Due to a lack of joint representation, even part-time and live-in employees suffer. The danger is higher for live-in employees, who are entirely dependent on their company for both financial and non-financial advantages. Facilities for basic food and accommodation, regular hours, hour shifts, overtime, and other related challenges are intrinsically tied to their profession and will not be handled just by financial concerns, such as minimum pay. Part-time employees, in general, are less vulnerable than live-in workers in this aspect because the short time spent in different families reduces overall vulnerability and reliance on a single employer for survival.
As a result, while similar challenges may arise for part-time workers, their significance pales in contrast to monetary considerations. Second, domestic workers in India are routinely vulnerable to workplace abuse. People from lower socioeconomic strata in India are often uninformed of their rights and remedies. Furthermore, given their dependency on wages for subsistence, they have little alternative but to put up with exploitative working conditions in order to preserve economic stability1
. Even when they do attempt to exercise their rights, they are confronted with institutional indifference and discrimination. Due to the lack of a regulatory framework, households are left at the mercy of employers, and they are routinely exposed to physical and sexual abuse with no recourse. Third, employees in India are routinely subjected to discrimination. Domestic workers in India, particularly live-in domestic workers, represent caste and class discrimination.
When servants are employed, discriminatory conduct is encouraged. Domestic workers who live at home with their families are frequently degraded to a lower position in the household. Because these domestic workers are often from low-income households, they are particularly more prone to socioeconomic bias. Domestic employees are exposed to exploitative and harsh treatment as a result of the power imbalance between employers and domestic workers, with the employer asserting control over domestic workers and a sense of caste-based or classist dominance over domestic workers. Domestic workers’ internalisation of bias has far-reaching psychological consequences, including loss of identity. Fourth, domestic workers are not protected by social insurance. Part-time and presently residing domestic workers, like other informal workers, have limited or no access to basic social security benefits including healthcare, unemployment insurance, or maternity benefits. Domestic workers’ income is usually less than the minimum wage, and their lack of social security has a paralysing impact on their livelihood in the event of health difficulties, which are prevalent owing to systemic nutritional inadequacy. Furthermore, a big proportion of domestic employees are women who are sexually abused by their husbands in their personal lives and have little or no say in the delivery. The majority of them lose their careers as well as the security of a small income due to the lack of maternity benefits. Furthermore, in comparison to other informal labourers, they are rarely acknowledged as “workers,” giving them a lower social and economic status. Now is a good moment to examine how our current legal system has attempted to address such challenges.
Analysis of the laws for Domestic Workers:
1. Minimum Wages Act, 1948
Various pre-existing laws, such as the Minimum Pay Act of 1948 for wage regulation, have been expanded to include domestic workers in order to address specific difficulties. As of the end of 2013, only eleven states had included home chores in the Supplement to the Minimum Wage Act of 1948. Furthermore, over half of the states, including Uttar Pradesh, the most populous in the country, have yet to set a basic salary for domestic workers. The implementation record is abysmal, even in countries where minimum wages for domestic staff have been established, obliterating any practical distinction between governments with and without minimum wages. As a result, Rajasthan and Jharkhand imposed three and eight charges, respectively, under the Minimum Wage Act of 1948, across all categories, including both official and unofficial occupations. Given the State’s meticulous approach to investigating and prosecuting households, it’s safe to conclude that neither of those involved domestic workers. Basic wage announcements would be impeded further by a lack of knowledge among all parties engaged in the trade, especially domestic servants, bosses, and labour inspectors (especially in rural areas), making enforcement much more difficult.
There are several genuine difficulties, in addition to practical issues, with these types of warnings. According to the ILO Report on Minimum Wages , the minimum wage and market pay have no relationship. Domestic workers, for example, are paid even less than subsistence rates. In certain circumstances, market compensation exceeds the minimum wage, while in others, market prices are lower. There is no distinction between rural and urban minimum salaries, which are decided by the expenditures of domestic employees. With the exception of the requirement to be paid additional wages, many states have no regulations limiting working hours, which is exceedingly difficult for stay-at-home domestic employees.
2. Sexual Harassment Act, 2013:
This very same Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 (the “Act of 2013”) 
established a district-level complaint-handling method called the Local Complaints Committee, which would have the authority to grant financial compensation, to combat sexual harassment in individual households. The aforementioned Act is simply not meant to address more serious offences, such as those involving domestic workers. Not only is the Act of 2013 fraught with flaws and insufficient safeguards, but possibly the laws that are in existence are generally unrecognised and uninitialized. In practice, the Act of 2013 appears to have minimal impact on the lives of domestic staff.
4. Judicial Decisions:
Despite the lack of statutory labour legislation to protect domestic workers’ rights, the judiciary has recognised their plight. The Delhi High Court attempted to solve the aforementioned gap by developing proposals for the Child Welfare Committee
and the Delhi Commission for Women
, his custodian, or the employer, the two entities have been given the power to notify the employer or enrolment entity to: award remuneration to the such domestic worker in situations of serious harm caused by the employment; and provide medical assistance to domestic workers.
. Such limits, imposed by presidential decrees
, are embedded in legislation directed at women (in Delhi) and children,
limiting the number of domestic employees to whom it may apply. restricting the number of domestic workers to whom they may apply. Furthermore, limited social security is only available after filing complaints with the competent authorities, and the worker does not have an inherent right to social security. As a result, it is merely another foolish attempt to protect domestic workers.
Result of the combined effect of a shortage of particular laws, a shortage of understanding of relevant regulations, and inadequate enforcement of current legislation, domestic workers experience significant monetary, physical, and sexual assault with no remedy. Following a thorough examination of the primary issues confronting domestic workers, it is clear why we require specific laws and regulatory mechanisms to handle domestic worker issues.
To lessen the domestic worker’s financial and social risks, he or she must have access to social security. Simultaneously, further steps must be implemented to guarantee that domestic workers have recourse to social security, such as reducing hurdles to execution, such as excess of employees, an absence of dispute resolution processes, etc. As a result, social security and many other initiatives aimed at alleviating the condition of domestic employees should be implemented at the same time.
It is proposed that Welfare Boards for domestic workers be constituted in each district, in accordance with the initiatives taken by the governments of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Kerala166. Because of the high number of domestic workers in the country, particularly in urban areas, an autonomous Board dedicated entirely to domestic workers will be perfect. Boards should be the first point of contact for domestic employees. Domestic worker registration should be made mandatory, and the Board should have the ability to fine families that employ unregistered domestic workers. Given that almost all urban homes use domestic workers, the Board’s initial efforts will necessitate reaching out to individual households to encourage adherence to the mandatory registration requirement.
- Funding for Social Security:
Domestic worker wages and the imposition of an additional property tax, like in Argentina, must be utilised to support the project. A standardised tax of this type will achieve two additional goals: first, it will address the issue of personal allowance collection by reinforcing the revenue collection process on its own, eliminating the need to set up a separate framework for collecting donations from specific employers; and second, it will not discourage the employment of domestic workers.
The Department of Economic Affairs indicated in the Economic Survey 2016-17 that property tax rates in India were comparatively low
, and that boosting property taxes would give an immediate chance to earn money locally
. As a consequence, any additional stress would be minimal.
Conflict resolution is dangerous in the case of domestic staff. If dispute resolution techniques were harsh or onerous, domestic households would be deterred from recruiting local personnel. Countries all across the world have recognised the need for a quick and easy dispute resolution mechanism, with conciliation being the favoured technique. As a result, we propose that the Boards be empowered to use conciliation to resolve disputes between domestic employees and their employers. Depending on how effective the Boards are, these powers may be expanded in the long run to include binding arbitration.
When conciliation is refused or is not an effective method of resolving a disagreement, the Board shall also be responsible for assisting domestic workers in approaching the courts by connecting them with the appropriate legal representatives.
Individuals recruited through placement agencies would also be eligible for welfare benefits under the revised definition of domestic employees. Placement firms must also be brought within the purview of the proposed Welfare Boards, with the Boards responsible for holding joint partners accountable in cases of worker non-registration. However, RWA concerns may be efficiently addressed by encouraging domestic workers to organise unions. Domestic employees would be able to take action against risk-weighted assets without fear of economic insecurity, and collective action would be an excellent tool for reining in RWAs’ inappropriate activities.
In the long term, the government’s stance toward domestic workers will need to change dramatically. The strong competitiveness of domestic staff should be tempered and regulated. Otherwise, any attempt to legitimise the enterprise through regulation would be fruitless. When minimum wages are declared, a domestic worker’s demand for minimum wage, for example, will almost surely result in her being replaced by someone willing to work for less money. To maintain her new position, the lower-paid worker would be wary of government attempts to impose a minimum wage, making the entire industry more informal and sceptical of government authorities. Threatening businesses with severe fines for limiting wages or working hours may backfire. Threatening companies with heavy fines for controlling compensation or working hours may be counterproductive since it discourages employers from hiring domestic workers, who would be replaced by modern technology or formal services such as tiffin or meal services. While domestic workers’ concerns should indeed be addressed, those employed in rural/semi-urban households should also be taken into account.
Proper implementation of rural development policies, such as the National Rural Employment Plan Guarantee and the Pradhan Mantri Rural Sadak Yojana, should reduce urban migration and, as a result, tough competition among domestic servants. Domestic workers in both urban and rural locations would benefit enormously from global social security systems such as food and nutrition security, free healthcare, and free education. The problems that domestic workers face cannot be solved in isolation. They are part of a larger problem that must be addressed as such. The study’s special legal provisions concerning domestic workers must be complemented with other social welfare initiatives.
Zubair Ahmad Khan and Hina Varshney, Implementation of the Labour Welfare Provisions for Women Workers in the Unorganised Sector in India: A Critical Analysis
21 ALJ 62, 67-69 (2013-14).
International Labour Office, Social Protection Department (SOCPRO), Geneva, Social protection for domestic workers: key policy trends and statistics, 10 (2016).
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 2013 (India)
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 § 29 No. 56, Acts of Parliament, 2000 (India)
The Delhi Commission for Women Act, 1994 § 3 No. 8, Acts of Delhi State Legislature, 1994 (India)
Bachpan Bachao v. Union of India, 2010 SCC OnLine Del 4613 : (2011) 177 DLT 198.
Government of National Territory of Delhi, Labour Department, Order No. Addl. LC/Misc(2)/12/Lab/Part File/1438, November 15, 2022.
Supra at 5.
Surbhi Kapur and PrasanaSethy, Working and Living Conditions of Workers in Unorganized Sector – A Review of Literature
, 4 Research Gate 197, 220-222 (2014).
Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Economic Survey 2016-17, Chapter 14 ¶305.
3rd Year Student at the Institute of Law
Nirma University, Ahmedabad