Saturday December 04, 2021

Govt urged to address issues of domestic workers

October 24, 2021

LAHORE :Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) organised a stakeholders’ consultation on The Punjab Domestic Workers Act, 2019, here on Saturday.

While appreciating the law, the participants highlighted some concerns and presented recommendations to improve this piece of legislation. Three years have passed, now the government should notify its rules and implement the law in letter and spirit so that its benefits could reach domestic workers, said Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director Women in Struggle for Empowerment.

WISE called upon government to frame rules of business without further delay and to make all the rules as prescribed under Section 2(q) read with Section 38 of the Act of 2019 to enable the departments concerned to apply the law in letter and spirit. To address the issues of domestic workers, the government of Punjab should activate Dispute Resolution Committees (DRCs) at union councils in the province, it said. The law needs some amendments for the welfare of domestic workers. “In other labour laws the maternity leave is 12 weeks but Domestic Workers Act 2019 offers only six weeks maternity leave,” Bushra pointed out and demanded the law be amended accordingly and maternity leave for women domestic workers be made in line with other laws. A report issued by WISE said, “From March 2021 to October 2021, at least 24 cases of violence against child domestic workers were reported and four of them died which is very alarming.” Khaliq said Pakistan should ratify ILO Convention C-189.

The law allows child domestic workers light jobs which is against the constitution of Pakistan that says a child from age five to sixteen years is entitled to free and compulsory education. The Domestic Workers Act says the employees and employers will sign the contract, a child less than 18 years old, cannot. Lawyer Ahmer Majeed said that if a child is taken from one place to another for work, it falls into trafficking under law. It is called modern slavery. The minimum age for the employment of domestic workers is set at 15 years. In principle, it cannot be less than the compulsory schooling age. The age limit should be reviewed accordingly. “Involvement of too many departments promotes bad governance,” this was pointed out by child rights activist Iftikhar Mubarak. No department takes all the responsibility, he said and suggested massive campaigns on electronic and social media. Social Security cards have yet to be issued to domestic workers. Until funds are released from the Workers Welfare Fund, these workers may be linked to other welfare programmes such as Ehsaas programme, suggested Arooma Shahzad of DW Union. M Shahid, law officer from Labour Department, said initial draft of rules of business has been framed and it will be shared with the civil society soon. Minimum wage would be fixed, he said, adding, domestic workers are skilled workers. He said Dispute Resolution Committees would be notified soon as the government has restored local government.