The hue and cry about domestic workers having a regulation to govern their activities in Ghana and abroad is no longer an illusion but reality. Domestic work is one of the world’s oldest occupations. It basically refers to domestic chores performed in a home or domestic setting. The Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) defines a “domestic worker as one who is not a member of the family of a person who employs him or her as house help”. It also means any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship.
According to the 2015 Labour Force Report of the Ghana Statistical Service, domestic workers constitute 0.5% of the working population. In recent times, the growth of domestic work as a service sector has been on the rise and reportedly fueled by demand and supply factors. Factors such as ageing population, decline in welfare provision, the increasing participation of women in the labour force, and the challenges of balancing work and family life in urban areas have contributed greatly to the increasing demand for domestic workers. On the supply side, poverty, gender discrimination in the labour market as well as limited employment opportunities have propelled the continuous supply of domestic workers into the labour market. Typically, a lot of young female residents in the northern part of Ghana, especially the five northern regions engage in domestic work or other menial jobs like the head porters (Kayaye).
Despite their importance and contribution to the economy, domestic workers suffer indecent working conditions. The physical proximity of domestic workers to household poses a heightened risk of abuse, exploitation, harassment, violence, etc. This risk is further heightened for live-in domestic workers.
Regrettably, the 2015 Labour Force Report revealed that, of the 1,944 domestic workers that sustained injuries in the course of their employment, none received compensation from their employers for injuries suffered at the workplace.
It is against this backdrop that the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations in collaboration with its key stakeholders pushed for regulations to protect domestic workers. The New Labour (Domestic Workers) Regulations, 2020 (L.I. 2408) came into force on 23rd July 2020. The objective of L.I. 2408 is to provide a legal framework for regulations of the employment of the domestic workers, their working conditions and protection. The law seeks to protect the rights of domestic workers and define the employment relationship between the employer and the domestic worker.
With the coming into force of L.I. 2408, both the employer and the domestic worker shall enter into a written contract of employment and a copy of the contract of the employment shall be deposited with the appropriate District Labour Officer within a month of entering into the contract. The contract of the employment shall indicate the conditions of service of the domestic worker and related matters such as emoluments, frequency and modalities of payment of wages or salaries, working hours, rest periods, leave period and required responsibilities, among others.
In addition, an employer shall not pay a domestic worker a remuneration that is below the National Daily Minimum Wage. Domestic workers shall be entitled to be paid overtime for hours worked after the agreed hours of work. A domestic worker shall not be required to do overtime work unless the contract of employment has a fixed rate for overtime.
They are also entitled to daily rest periods of at least eight consecutive hours and rest periods of at least twenty-four hours in a week. Furthermore, domestic workers shall be entitled to annual leave and maternity leave in accordance with the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651). Domestic workers are not required to work on statutory public holidays and if they do, they must be paid double, the amount of the normal wage.
The rationale for these provisions is to provide adequate protection for the domestic worker and create more decent employment in the sub-sector.
In the event the provisions of the contract of employment run contrary to L.I 2408, the L.I 2408 shall have precedence over the contract of employment.
The new regulation is a precursor to the lifting of the temporary ban on recruitment of domestic workers to the Gulf States. L.I. 2408 also provides the basis for executing Bilateral Labour Agreements (BLAs) with destination countries.
The writer is a Staff of ISD & PRO for MELR, firstname.lastname@example.org