Ratification of C189

Paving the Way to Ratification of C189 Decent Work for Domestic Workers

A national consultation on the road map to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189).

A study  on the living and working conditions of domestic workers and a review of the policy and legal framework was commissioned by the ILO Country Office in 2019 with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation on the request of the Ministry of Labour. The objective was to provide an evidence base for the Government of Sri Lanka to consider ratification of Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189). The Centre for Women's Research (CENWOR) conducted the study with technical assistance from the ILO. The findings were presented at a  national consultation in Colombo recently. The study highlights that domestic workers are invisible in the labour force and that they lack recognition in labour laws, and that domestic workers  are excluded from the definition of workers in Sri Lanka's labour laws. Thus new or ammended legislation is required to recognize the contribution made to society and the economy by domestic workers as part of the labour force; and to uphold their rights and protect them from exploitation. The ILO Convention can play an important role in addressing this issue and in formalizing domestic work in Sri Lanka. Ratification of C189 can facilitate minimum standards to a group of largely female workers who are presently in precarious work. Over time, these measures would elevate the social position of domestic workers.

The study presented four options towards legal recongnition of domestic work: (1) Enact a separate and distinct law; (2) Integrate domestic workers into existing labour laws; (3)Introduce a Standard Agreement between employers and employees; and (4) Create a state-led formal system of registration of domestic workers with terms and conditions. The road map proposed by the study includes: identifying a lead government agency; classifying domestic workers; ensuring competency; raising awareness including among domestic workers; ensuring an accountability mechanism; documentation; and ratifying ILO C189. Essential issues to be considered in formulating the road map are the categorization of workers based on age, mechanisms for social security provision, a sound monitoring framework, grievance redressal, reporting and documentation, provisions to regulate employers and recruitment agencies, training of domestic workers, and differentiation of domestic workers based on their specialized roles.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, members of trade unions including two domestic workers organizations and, representatives from the Employers Federation of Ceylon, researchers and civil society activists actively participated in the consultations.
The government of Sri Lanka is committed to amending at least four key labour laws to include domestic workers as the first step. There was a rich discussion on the need to take tangible measures in the short to medium term to recognize domestic workers in preparation for ratification of C189. This activity is alligned with ILO P&B 2020-2021 Outcome 7.1: increased capacity of member States.