What is domestic slavery?

Domestic work is a sector which is particularly vulnerable to exploitation and domestic slavery because of the unique circumstances of working inside a private household combined with a lack of legal protection.

Domestic workers perform a range of tasks in private homes including: cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of children and the elderly and running errands. Some domestic workers also live in their employers’ homes and are often considered ‘on call’ to undertake work for their employer 24 hours a day.

Some domestic workers may not be paid at all or only receive ‘payment in kind’ such as food or accommodation. The pay is often very low, with wage payments frequently delayed.

For some domestic workers, the circumstances and conditions of their work amount to slavery. This happens when employers stop domestic workers from leaving the house, don’t pay wages, use violence or threats, withhold their identity documents, limit their contact with family and force them to work.

How does domestic slavery happens?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that at least 67 million men and women work as domestic workers across the world, not including children.

Women and girls make up the overwhelming majority of domestic workers, around 80%. ILO estimates that more girls under the age of 16 work in domestic service than in any other category of child labour.

Some domestic workers are migrant workers from other countries or regions, mainly from rural areas to the city. For many, domestic work is one of the very few options available to enable them to provide for themselves and their families.

Domestic work is poorly regulated and undervalued. In many countries, domestic workers are not considered ‘workers’ but rather as informal ‘help’ and are excluded from national labour regulations.

Often they do not enjoy the same protections as other workers, such as legal contracts, minimum pay, holidays, health care, social security and maternity benefits. In countries where domestic workers are covered by national labour laws, enforcement is poor and these protections have not been translated into practice. International Labour Organization has adopted a Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which secures the rights of millions of domestic workers across the globe.

Domestic workers migrating to the UK should be protected and lifting visa restrictions tying them to one employer could protect them from abuse

International companies are now bringing in protocols to stop Slavery- this should happen for Domestic work as well.