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Freedom United & 350+ organizations demand end to loophole that allows domestic servitude

Law & Policy

This week, Freedom United joined over 350 organizations in the U.K. demanding the government close a legal loophole that leaves the door open for domestic workers to be exploited and subjected to forced labor. 

Calls to scrap the Family Worker Exemption

It’s been two years since the Low Pay Commission, an independent body that advises the government on the National Minimum Wage, recommended that the Family Worker Exemption be scrapped, but legislation still hasn’t been put forward by the government. 

At the government’s request, the LPC conduct an investigation into the Family Worker Exemption which was introduced in 1999 and stipulates that employers are not obliged to pay the minimum wage to employees living in their homes. The U.K. government website states “au pairs usually live with the family they work for and are unlikely to be classed as workers or employees. They are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage or paid holidays.”

Terrible conditions, poor pay

During this investigation the LPC spoke to migrant domestic workers living in their employers’ homes and heard accounts of workers not being allowed to leave the home, terrible working conditions and extremely low pay. The body warned that the Family Worker Exemption would leave migrant workers in private homes vulnerable to exploitation.

Ann Santos is one such worker who left the Philippines to find a job in the U.K. She reported being paid £200 per week (£800 is the minimum wage) to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Santos was eventually recognized as a victim of trafficking after being referred to the national support system by the Voice of Domestic Workers,  a charity supporting migrant domestic workers in the U.K.

Marissa Begonia, founder of the Voice of Domestic Workers, told the Guardian:

“Many migrant domestic workers find themselves on 24-hour duty in childcare and elderly care in addition to neverending household chores cleaning, laundry, ironing, and cooking.”

The chair of the LPC, Bryan Sanderson, reiterated the call on the government to enact their recommendation, saying:

“At the end of our review we made a clear recommendation to the government to remove the exemption. We continue to believe the government should take action on this,” he said.

“The individuals affected by it are often vulnerable and almost entirely female. The evidence we heard from these women on their situation and working conditions was often harrowing.”

Excluding live-in workers from formal employment regulations has put them at risk of exploitation from unscrupulous employers. It’s about time the government finally introduce legislation to close the Family Worker Exemption loophole and better protect domestic workers from abuse.

Take action for domestic workers around the world

Call on your government to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention to better protect all domestic workers from exploitation.

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.

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