It's International Domestic Workers Day - why does it matter?

Domestic Workers are often overlooked, discriminated against and abused. This blog sets out the injustices they face and four things campaigners are calling for this International Domestic Workers Day.

Worldwide there are 67 million Domestic Workers but only 10 per cent enjoy the same labour protections as other workers. Here in the UK, there are 16,000 Domestic Workers, many of whom are overlooked and discriminated against, enduring unpaid wages, physical and sexual abuse.

Trust for London grantees Sounddelivery Media and The Voice of Domestic Workers, an education and support group calling for justice and rights for Britain’s migrant domestic workers are collaborating on a project to amplify the lived experience of a network of migrant domestic workers from the Philippines, India and Uganda.

The Future Voices training programme aims to equip 12 Migrant Domestic Workers with the skills and confidence to share their experiences, have their expertise heard more widely and ultimately drive public awareness and policy change.

Four key changes campaigners for the rights of Domestic Workers are calling for:

1. Domestic Workers Convention 189 of the International Labour Organisation

Campaigners are calling on the UK to ratify Convention 189 of the ILO to promote and protect the rights of domestic workers.

Whereas domestic workers significantly contribute to the global workforce and economy, their contributions continue to be undervalued and invisible. Many of them work for excessively long hours with low wages, without legal terms of employment thus being often excluded from the scope of legal and social protection. Some also face physical, sexual and verbal abuses.

I want to develop more confidence to use my voice to speak out for myself and other domestic workers in front of people, the government, journalists and on social media.
Nera, Migrant Domestic Worker Future Voices Programme Participant

2. Restore rights and end UK slavery

In 2012 the government removed the rights of migrant domestic workers when changing the provisions of the Overseas Domestic Worker (ODW) Visa. This visa previously allows workers the right to change employer without restrictions, the right to renew the Overseas Domestic Workers visa, the right to settlement and the right to British citizenship.

Migrant domestic workers have endured 10 years being trapped working for abusive employers following changes in 2012. Removing their rights has left them unprotected, powerless and in severe exploitative work condition.

Workers and their supporters have lobbied and campaigned for changes to the ODW visa so that workers have certain rights that would keep them safe at work and be able to challenge abuse when it arises.

3. Protect physical and mental health

Covid 19 shone a light on the injustices faced by Domestic Workers. When employers stopped Domestic Workers from working without notice and pay during the Covid 19 lockdown they couldn’t claim their unpaid wages, many were afraid to go to the hospital when infected by the virus. When parents and children were all at home during the lockdown, they worked up to 24 hours per day.

They are essential workers. Domestic work is work, and they should be protected as workers.

I want to help domestic workers who are suffering from abuse and use my knowledge to help solve their issues so they can carry on with their lives and work in safety.
Dareen, Migrant Domestic Worker Future Voices Programme Participant

4. Prevention of poverty

The Voice of Domestic Workers demands the alleviation of Domestic Workers from poverty. Their work helps Domestic Workers by providing educational and community activities for domestic workers including English language lessons, drama and art classes, and employment advice, and provide support for domestic workers who exit from abusive employers.

What's next for the Voice of Domestic Workers?

Speaking out about their work, sharing their stories and experiences is vital to address the injustice many of their network are facing. Migrant Domestic Workers are one of the most vulnerable groups of workers. Migrant Domestic Workers need to be part of the conversations that affect them, and have a seat around the table to influence change.

The Future Voices programme is enabling more domestic workers to feel confident to share their experiences and advocate for their rights

This International Domestic Workers’ Day please help amplify the experience of Domestic Workers in the UK and find out more about their work to support the campaign for justice and rights.

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Participants in the Future Voices Programme

About the authors

Helen Chapman is Media Communications Manager at Sounddelivery Media. Her role includes working with the spokesperson network to find them new platforms and opportunities to share their experiences and expertise.
The charity works to amplify lived experience stories and expertise to address social inequalities. They believe in a confident social sector able to develop and amplify lived experience stories and expertise to address social inequalities, and work towards greater representation and diversity of the voices in the media and beyond.

Marissa Begonia is Director of The Voice of Domestic Workers, an education and support group calling for justice and rights for Britain's sixteen thousand migrant domestic workers. She campaigns for justice and rights for Britain’s migrant domestic workers. She helps them to flee abusive families and find safety.
The Voice of Domestic Workers provide educational and community activities for domestic workers - including English language lessons, drama and art classes, and employment advice, and provide support for domestic workers who exit from abusive employers.​ The group seeks to end discrimination and protect migrant domestic workers living in the UK by providing or assisting in the provision of education, training, healthcare and legal advice.

Follow the Voice of Domestic Workers Future Voices programme here #VODWFutureVoices

16 June 2022