Monday, 10 March 2014

Key Features and Gaps of the Domestic Workers (Employment Rights) Act, 2013

A bill is under discussion in the Senate of Pakistan by the name of the Domestic Workers (Employment Rights) Act, 2013. The following are some of the key features of this proposed Act:-

Features:-
- The Purposes of this bill includes
(a) to protect the rights of the domestic workers
(b) to regulate their employment and conditions of service
(c) to provide them social security, safety, health facility and welfare
- Section 3 of the Bill is powerful as it gives it effect over all existing laws and decrees of the court...
- Section 4 is not curtailing the rights of workers if any extra rights are given in other laws.
- The age limit of domestic worker is above 14 years and less than 60 years (Section 5a).
- No worker can be forced to work against the provisions of contract (Section 5b)
- No discrimination shall be there among workers (Section 5c)
- Written contract is mandatory between employer and worker (Section 5d)
- Employment Contract Shall (The word shall makes the following terms binding in a contract) include:- (Section 5e).
(a) Hours of Work
(b) Nature of Work
(c) Wages (Shall be in line with Minimum Wage Ordinance 1961- Section 9)
(d) Leave (Sanctioned by Government and Maternity Leaves, sick leave, casual leave, annual leave and compensatory off)
(e) Food and accomodation
(f) Termination, suspension, disciplinary proceedings
(e) Dispute settlement
(f) Healthcare/Welfare Measures
Further the contract is mandatory as per the provisions of section 6. 
- Domestic Worker shall not be addressed as servants (Section 5f)
- Minimum wage shall be in accordance with the law of country (Section 5g)
- Extra payment shall be there for special work or overtime (Section 5h)
- Seperate Festival Allowance shall be there for the worker (Section 5i)
- Extra work cannot be imposed on work without free will (Section 5k)
- Right to form union is guaranteed in Section 5n.
- Maximum Working hours are 12 with one hour break (Section 8). A worker can work more with free will.
- Females can have 3 months salary as maternity benefit (Section 11)
- It is the duty of Domestic Welfare Board to award other benefits to domestic workers from WWF (Section 12)
- In case of injury, the employer is liable to compensate the worker (Section 13)
- Employer is liable to provide food and accommodation to worker (Section 14)
- Dispute Resolution Committee and appellate authority have the powers to conduct judicial proceedings under this Act (Section 26).
- Labor Courts and Civil Courts are Barred to entertain cases of domestic workers (Section 29).
- Whoever Contravenes to this Act can be imprisoned for 3 months and can be fined up to 100,000 Rupees (Section 30)

Gaps (Lacuna) :-
1. One of the purposes of this bill shall be to provide free, transparent and impartial dispensation of justice to the domestic workers. This is missing.
2. Time Period for settling disputes by the Dispute Resolution Committee and Appellate Authority is not mentioned.
3. This bill is substantive and bit procedural too. However the procedural part is not very comprehensive. Powers are further delegated to the Government to make rules in this context (Section 27).
4. The criminal proceedings related to domestic workers are out of the ambit of this law (Section 31). 

5. Law is not clear to the extent of violations and corruptions if any by the Domestic Workers Welfare Board.
6. Liability of employer shall not be to provide accommodation to all kinds of domestic workers (Section 14 needs to be amended accordingly)
7. Dispute Settlement Committee's Composition is not made in this Act. How many persons shall be there in it along with their qualifications and experience to adjudicate upon the matters. 
8. No description of Appellate Authority is present in the Act.

Recommendations:-

- The Dispute Resolution Committee shall have the powers to take cognizance of offenses pertaining to domestic workers.
- The procedure for filing appeal before appellate authority and powers of appellate authority shall be part of this Act.
- The Act shall have proper date of commencement. (Section 1)
- The year shall be 2014 for this law in Section 1, Clause 1.
- Instead of Dispute Resolution Committee, we need a single person as domestic workers commissioner with legal knowledge to dispose off matters speedily in one of two hearings.
- Domestic Workers shall be empowered to file complaints before such commissioner against the employers.  



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