Home-Based Workers and the Law

home based worker in ThailandHome-based workers produce goods or services for the market from in or around their own homes. Although largely invisible, they are engaged in many branches of industry. In fact home-based work represents a significant share of urban employment, especially for women, in many countries and these workers' income provides crucial support to their households. Learn more about the size, contributions and challenges of this important workforce at Occupational Groups: Home-Based Workers.


Legal Framework

The legal regulatory environment for home-based workers is uncertain. There are two main categories of home-based workers: self-employed and sub-contracted. In most countries, neither group has clear legal standing.The self-employed are not recognized as independent operators; the sub-contracted are not recognized as dependent workers.

For both groups, their home is their workplace, but often they do not have secure tenure to their homes-cum-workplaces. Also, it is often unclear whether commercial activities are allowed in the areas where they live. Zoning regulations are of particular interest.

The resources on this site will help home-based workers and their organizations, along with lawyers, researchers, advocates and policymakers understand some of the legal challenges around home-based work. Some models for addressing those challenges can be found here also.

HIGHLIGHT: 1996 International Convention on Homework (C177)

In 1996, after many years of advocacy and struggle on the part of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) and organizations of home-based workers, the International Labour Conference (ILC) adopted an international convention (C177) that recognizes homeworkers (i.e. sub-contracted home-based workers) as workers who are entitled to just reward for their labour. C177 mandates that all homeworkers should have basic labour rights; guarantees the applicability of core labour standards and other protections of homeworkers; and sets a standard for their minimum pay and working conditions, including occupational health and safety. To date, 10 countries have ratified the convention. See the text of C177.


Publications and Legal Resource Guides

Laws on Home-Based Work

Law Project Reports on Home-Based Workers

News on Home-Based Work and the Law

More Information on Home-Based Workers

Informal Economy Theme
Occupational group