Yesterday the UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced a series of measures designed to update the law in relation to human trafficking and slavery. The measures in the Draft Bill includes life sentences for those successfully prosecuted in this crime.
The measures – once again – do nothing to address domestic workers who are forced to stay with the family they enter the country with and are unable to seek alternative work. USi has continued to assist the work of domestic workers networks to ensure that the litany of horror stories where workers – nearly exclusively women – are often sexually, physically and mentally abused and who in practice are on call 24 hours a day. Listen to the Home Secretary completely avoiding this specific question when asked on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.
The UK Government has also failed to ratify ILO Convention 189. On 29th February 2012, Theresa May announced changes to the rules for migrant domestic workers including the removal of the right to change employer. The removal of the legal right to leave an abusive living and working relationship will illegalise many women who enter as domestic workers accompanying wealthy employers. Some of them will feel unable to leave abusive situations thereby risking their physical, mental and emotional security. Others will escape, and thereby become undocumented with no access to legal employment or basic legal protection.
Statistics produced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) this year highlighted that there are over 52 million domestic workers around the world, who are exploited on a daily basis. The term ‘domestic worker’ covers individuals who cook, clean, care for the elderly and children, garden and security. Globally, domestic workers tend to be women as they make up 83 percent of employees in this workforce. However, they have very little provisions and many are paid below the minimum wage.
Domestic workers tend to be ignored by main stream labour issues and do not seem to be included in policy making on social issues. Domestic workers tend to work in homes and therefore, are isolated from public view. The ILO has also stated that 45 percent of domestic workers do not have entitlement to have a rest period and there are no limits to the amount of hours they work per week.
We need urgent change and support for these workers as this exploitation is a violation of human rights. Until the UK Government effectively addresses this issue in its Draft Bill it will continue to fail in addressing modern day slavery.
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