Know your rights: Domestic servants

The minimum wage for a labourer in the Sindh is fixed at Rs11,000

Ali Usman October 28, 2014


There is a growing trend of engaging domestic help, particularly in cities. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 74 per cent of the labour work force is engaged in the informal sector, of which domestic workers are the biggest chunk.

Yet despite that, there are no clear laws to guarantee domestic workers their rights as they do not fall under the social security net. However, the following laws apply in certain cases.

Minimum wage rule

The minimum wage for a labourer in the Sindh is fixed at Rs11,000. However, because no law accepts domestic workers as labourers, this rule does not apply to them, even though their working-hours sometimes exceed those of a labourer's. Their salaries remain far less.

Umme Laila Azhar, the executive director of HomeNet Pakistan, a non-government organisation working for home-based workers and domestic servants, said domestic workers are termed unskilled workers but they are not registered or acknowledged as such anywhere in Pakistan. "There is no mechanism to ascertain their salaries, perks, or terms of job," she said.

Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act

Domestic workers can register harassment complaints against their employers under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act. The procedural requirements, however, are not fulfilled in many cases because the first complaint has to be filed with an internal office committee. In case of domestic workers, this requirement would be impossible to meet. However, domestic workers can take advantage of this law to get an FIR registered against their employers.

Domestic child servants

Article 25-A of the Constitution states that it is responsibility of the state to extend the right to free education to every child. This is violated in the case of domestic child servants.

Most of them have to stay with their employers away from their homes. The situation is termed "contemporary form of slavery", used to refer to domestic child labour in the country.

"They are not entitled to several basic rights, including the right to education, the right to medical treatment or the right to live with parents. In many cases, domestic child servants do not study. In the last three years, some 30 kids who worked as domestic servants have been killed or brutally tortured. "We have been campaigning to urge the government legislate on placing curbs on this and bringing domestic labour under some regulations. "However so far nothing has been achieved in this regard," Iftikhar Mubarik, a child rights activist, said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2014.


OMer | 9 years ago | Reply

In Pakistan due to popular opinion nobody talks about the impact of minimum wage on many laborers, my company had to fire 25 people when the minimum wage rate was changed and if the minimum wage if is applied to domestic servants it will cause a lot of them to lose their jobs.

So it is not always good to have minimum wages especially when the labor is available at cheaper rates

Sarmad | 9 years ago | Reply

The piece is written in a very informative manner, however just drawing upon the issue from experinece i see it being tackled from multiple aspects. Awareness. How many who are working as domestic servants know about their right. Have we even tried reaching out to them to give them awareness despite the incident with domestic workers last year. legislation. If we are unable to procced with a legislation. Then we can use the case of child domestic labour and advocate its addition to the list of banned occupation where stauch punishment also needs to be for the volator. 25.A is also a very good aspects for ensuring that children are not in DW. However the establishment of Child protection service is a positive sign but their current situation reflects government committment. Poverty. We have poverty on one hand and a large family on the other. Now this a challenege both for government and organizations working on the subject. The government should start by building social safety net program which are for the poor.

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