Domestic Workers and Law

Domestic workers provide essential services (e.g. cleaning, cooking, childcare, gardening) in other peoples' homes─which allows others to work outside the home. Thus domestic workers are an essential part of the labour market and the economy. The majority of the world's domestic work is performed by women, predominantly poor women. See Domestic Workers for more about the contributions, challenges and issues of domestic work around the world.

Legal Context

Domestic Workers public speaking

Because they work in private homes, domestic workers face unique vulnerabilities. Usually, there is a great social and economic power imbalance.

For migrant domestic workers, immigration status may be directly tied to their continued employment with a single employer. In many countries, domestic workers are excluded from social security and collective bargaining schemes. Furthermore, because domestic work happens in the home, generally out of the public eye, it is difficult to monitor and enforce laws protecting domestic workers' rights, even when they do exist. between the employer and the employee. The legal regulatory environment for domestic workers in most countries provides incomplete workplace protection. Domestic workers' hours are often poorly defined; many lack the right to live outside the home or even take their rest breaks outside of the home. 

The resources on this site can help domestic workers and their organizations, as well as lawyers, researchers, advocates and policymakers understand some of the legal challenges around domestic work. Models for addressing those challenges can also be found here. 

domestic workers protest
Domestic workers organizing for the right to decent work in Bangkok, Thailand

HIGHLIGHT: Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C189)

In 2011, after many years of advocacy and struggle on the part of domestic workers' unions and associations worldwide, the International Labour Conference adopted an international convention (C189). C189 recognizes the right of domestic workers to decent working conditions. These include the right to daily and weekly rest periods; a minimum wage and minimum age consistent with that of other sectors in each member country; the right to choose where to spend their leave and where to live; and the right to clear terms of employment. The Convention came into force after the second member state ratified it in 2013. Domestic workers are campaigning for individual countries to ratify and implement C189. See countries that have ratified C189.  

For more information, read "Yes, We Did It!", Celia Mathers' account of how the Convention was achieved.



Laws on Domestic Work

Legal Judgments on Domestic Work

Law Project Reports on Domestic Workers

News on Domestic Work and the Law

More Information on Domestic Workers

Informal Economy Theme
Occupational group