EPSU calls for equal labour and social rights for migrant domestic and care workers

Brussels, 16 June 2018

On the occasion of International Domestic Workers' Day (16 June), EPSU supports the call of a network of civil society organisations coordinated by PICUM  the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants. We call on the governments of the EU Member States and the institutions of the European Union to recognise labour and social rights of migrant domestic workers and migrant care workers. We want the EU and Member States to press these points in the final round of inter-governmental negotiations on the United Nations Global Compact on Migration (GCM) on 9 to 13 July 2018.

Across Europe, many individuals and families rely on support to carry out essential domestic and care work. Without regulation and investment in the sector, domestic and care workers are often carrying out these vital jobs without adequate pay, holidays or coverage by social protection. Many of these workers in Europe and around the globe are undocumented migrants. Being undocumented leaves them unable to access the same rights as other workers and puts them at greater risk of exploitation, violence and abuse. The joint call also highlights that governments should allocate budgets for home-based health and care social services. To ensure affordability, accessibility and quality, services should be delivered through public services. Private provision should be properly regulated to protect the workers doing domestic or care work in private households.

Earlier this year EPSU co-signed a document about shared concerns and joint recommendations on migrant domestic and care work. Again coordinated by PICUM, this document focuses on migrant workers from third countries. It was finalised in February 2018. For EPSU it is important to differentiate between the household services sector and care work and services inside and outside of private households, fully acknowledging that there are several interfaces between these two types of services and the workforce delivering them. This distinction is important as the relevant regulatory frameworks, the objectives of the services, the funding systems in place, professional training requirements and qualifications, collective agreements that apply, etc. are different.

The documents first sets out the challenges around lack of recognition and poor regulation of domestic and care work / economy. It then elaborates on the particular risks of exploitation and challenges to access justice for migrant workers. The third section deals with the discrimination, violence and limited access to services and social protection faced by migrant domestic and/or care workers in private households. It also includes policy recommendations for these three fields of action and to support a multi-stakeholder approach in effectively addressing them (section 4).

For EPSU and our affiliates the points concerning the pay and working conditions, provisions on ethical recruitment, gender equality and gender-based discrimination or violence as well as access to social protection systems are of prior importance. Progress and improvements are urgently needed to achieve decent pay, working and living conditions for the largely female migrant workers in domestic work and care provided in private households.

Below are some of the recommendations of key importance for EPSU:

  • Employer, provider and trade unions should work together to facilitate enforcement of social and employment standards: 1) Lobby for equal rights regarding pay, working hours, holidays, sick leave, freedom of movement, health insurance, decent and private accommodation etc.; 2) Raise awareness of workers’ rights and obligations on employers, including individuals and families, and support them to meet those obligations (for example, with tools such as template contracts, translation support/ referrals, support to access subsidies and publicly provided services, support to comply with tax and social security regulations, etc.). Being covered by a collective agreement would be a great step forward.
  • Support domestic workers, including (undocumented) migrants to organise. There is an important role of trade unions in particular to do outreach and facilitate membership and support, including through cooperation with NGOs. Trade union participation of and advocacy for all migrant domestic and care workers, regardless of residence status, is crucial to empower domestic workers and improve labour standards for all workers in the sector.
  • Include domestic and care work in the same employment regulations framework as other occupations and ensure labour standards, including a living wage, health and safety and social protection, as well as the right to non-discrimination and equal treatment, and the right to organise, to collective bargaining, and to information and consultation, apply to the domestic and care sector.
  • Prevent a situation where Europe meets its care needs through exploitation of migrant workers – ensure that employment in domestic and care sector is decent and dignified: 1) This includes the obligation to give access for labour inspectors to private homes as places of employment. 2) This also means a guarantee for all workers to have the right to organise, participate in collective bargaining, to join and form trade unions and social enterprises.
  • Regulate recruitment agencies (...); ensure registration, mandatory minimum standards for positions offered, that fees are not charged to workers (...), monitoring of implementation and accountability. This request is in line with the objectives of the PSI Campaign "Support Fair and Ethical Recruitment: #NoRecruitmentFees"
  • Ensure that all residents, including undocumented migrants, have equal access to services, including health, education, and shelter, as well as access to housing.

In 2016 the EPSU affiliates endorsed the EPSU Orientation Paper on Personal Care and Household Services that was elaborated to summarise EPSU's positions and recommendations concerning care services provided in private households as one of the outcomes of a project (4Quality!) EPSU was involved in.