Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Trial inspections for household with domestic workers

Article from: 'Inspections find abuses of domestic workers' The Irish Times - July 6, 2011 (Jamie Smyth, Social Affairs Correspondent)

SEVERAL DOMESTIC workers have managed to secure proper working conditions following the first inspections of private homes carried out by a State watchdog [in Ireland].

The National Employment Rights Authority, set up to monitor and secure compliance with employment law, has undertaken 20 inspections of private homes this year in a pilot scheme. The inspections were carried out following concerns expressed by NGOs that some domestic workers such as childminders, cleaners and housekeepers are working in “slave-like” conditions.

One case detected by inspectors involved a Filipina, who was working seven days a week and up to 80 hours per week as a care worker for an older person. The woman, who did not receive regular payslips or a work contract, did not feel she could report the case to the authorities for fear of losing her job. But the inspection means she is now working 40 hours a week and has a contract, according to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, which became aware of the case.

In a second case, a Filipina childminder, who was living in the employer’s home, managed to change the length of time she was expected to be “on call” following an inspection by the authority. Ger Deering, director of the authority, said inspectors came across several cases where workers had no payslips, no written terms and conditions, and no clarity on working hours.

He said they did not detect any cases of physical abuse but stressed this did not mean these cases did not exist. He said the pilot scheme would probably be extended as part of the authority’s normal system of inspections and encouraged the public to give anonymous tip-offs if they had concerns about abuse.

Unlike standard workplace inspections, authority inspectors cannot enter a person’s home, which in the case of domestic workers is often the employees’ home as well as their workplace, without the consent of the owner.

But they have the right to interview an employer and employee at a location outside the home and to demand access to documentation.

In 17 of the cases inspectors were granted access to the private home and in three cases they were allowed to inspect documentation outside the home. In all cases they could talk to the employees.

The results of the pilot inspection regime were released yesterday as the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights published a report showing undocumented migrants in domestic jobs are “very vulnerable” to exploitation and abuse. The study, which analysed the situation for domestic workers in 10 EU states, uncovered specific evidence of migrant domestic workers in Ireland suffering ill-treatment from their employers.

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