If the government has its way, you can look forward to filing extra paperwork for your domestic help, driver, ayah, et al in the near future. Last month, Minister of State for Labour Santosh Kumar Gangwar had informed Lok Sabha that "Discussions are underway regarding a national policy for domestic workers, including women, with the aim to protect the domestic workers from abuse, harassment, violence and guarantee them rights in the matter of social security and minimum wages".
Which is good news for the roughly 5 million domestic workers in the country, not so much for the employers. According to a report in The Economic Times, the ministry's efforts to revive the 'National Policy for Domestic Workers' - first proposed in 2015 - not only translates into higher salaries for domestic helps but may also involve extra paperwork for employers. The ministry plans to set up a central board/trust where employers will have to register their domestic help.
All employers as well as domestic helps will have to register on the board and payment of salaries will be made through this board, similar to the Mathadi board model prevalent in Maharashtra, a senior government official told the daily. He added that under the proposed policy, payment of wages will be made to the board under fixed slab rates and the central board/trust will be managed by all stakeholders. This will not only ensure that an equal wage is paid for equal work but is also expected to end the bargaining power of both employers and employees.
For the uninitiated, Mathadi workers are those who carry loads, usually on their heads (matha), and the Mathadi boards were set up to ensure fair wages were paid to them.
The daily adds that the ministry is trying to push the policy forward this time because it is drafting an ambitious universal social security code that would cover even domestic workers, who are otherwise deprived of benefits such as medical insurance, pension, maternity and mandatory leave. This plan will reportedly cost the exchequer a whopping Rs 1.2 lakh crore.
So what does the national policy for domestic workers envision? According to a notification issued by the labour ministry last October, the national policy for domestic workers would clearly define part-time, full-time and live-in workers, employers and private placement agencies. This would give workers the right to register themselves with the state labour departments.
Apart from a minimum salary of Rs 9,000 per month and compulsory paid leave of 15 days in a year, the policy aims to give domestic workers "access to social security benefits such as health insurance, maternity benefits and old age pensions as provided by the existing and upcoming schemes of central and state government, which may include contribution from employer/workers". The idea, said the ministry, is to explicitly and effectively expand the scope of applicable legislations, policies and schemes to grant domestic workers rights that are enshrined in laws for other category of workers.
Of course, this proposed national policy will have to go through a series of stakeholder consultations before it takes final shape. The labour ministry has been planning to bring it about for three years now but various propositions have been shot down by employers, who said it would significantly add to their monthly bills.
The government's thrust to revive it now, ahead of election year, can't be mere coincidence.
(With PTI inputs)
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