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Domestic Workers raise concerns

All about Domestic Work in Zambia, Domestic Workers raising concerns about working conditions, Protection of Domestic Workers and more on Mywage Zambia.

Almost a year later, the Domestic Workers Order Act which since January 2011 recognised the domestic workers under the Employment Act, still falls short of addressing workers main concerns.

Domestic workers who attended the recent Decisions for Life workshop in Lusaka, Zambia, with a focus on the precarious nature of domestic workers and the Domestic Workers Order Act said gaps in the Act continue to hinder their chance at accessing a decent work.

Some of their main concerns in the Act included:

  • The definition contained in the Act of domestic workers was misleading as the nature of work went beyond caring for children and aged/frail/sick persons within the home.
  • Because of the definition, it was felt that the real work of domestic workers was not properly clarified and this disadvantaged them in that they were forced to sometimes do demeaning work because of lack of clear guidelines on what was expected of them. Some of this work involved disposing of used pads/tampons of their employers while on duty.
  • The wages prescribed in the Act are not always adhered to by would be employers of domestic workers as most consider them too high - while the workers felt they were too low. However, because of poverty, they are forced to accept lower wages and do not have the means or knowledge to report this violation mainly for fear of losing the job.
  • Hours of work for domestic workers: despite being prescribed the number of hours to work, many employers required them to report for work as early as 0600 hours and leave only after they returned from work or evening functions and rarely paid them overtime or transport. This was cited as a common behaviour which risked the lives of domestic workers as they were forced to walk back to their homes situated in high density areas. One participant narrated how she was accosted and raped by two men after 20:00 hours.
  • Clauses on paid sick leave and maternity were reported to be not possible as almost all employers immediately dismissed a sick or pregnant worker. The Domestic Workers Recruitment Centres also tolerated this by replacing the pregnant or ill worker as part of the contract of service with employers.
  • Additionally, the domestic workers felt it was unfair for the government to have put in a clause on maternity leave while on the other hand making it unpaid leave, as it would be practically impossible for a worker to survive on maternity leave without any pay.
  • The separation package put in place in the Act was seen by the participants as grossly unfair considering many were paid low wages. The Act stipulates that a domestic worker will be paid one months’ pay for every completed two years served upon separation. But according to the workers, the nature of exploitation on the market resulted in many domestic workers not being able to retain a job for long enough periods and that the one month for each two years served meant very few would ever qualify for this package.

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