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Report: Migrants in an irregular situation employed in domestic work: Fundamental rights challenges for the European Union and its Member States
This report by the the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) examines the fundamental rights of irregular migrants who are employed as domestic workers in the EU, most of whom are women. The report shows that their irregular immigration status, coupled with challenges in regulating domestic work more generally, makes this group very vulnerable to exploitation, including cases of physical abuse. Typical forms of exploitation include low pay, often having to work excessive working hours, and usually not being able to obtain compensation for work-related accidents.
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) presents its report on the fundamental rights of irregular migrants who are employed as domestic workers in the EU. Most irregular migrants in domestic work are women. The report shows that their irregular immigration status, coupled with challenges in regulating domestic work more generally, makes this group very vulnerable to exploitation, including cases of physical abuse. Typical forms of exploitation include low pay, often having to work excessive working hours, and usually not being able to obtain compensation for work-related accidents.
The report is based on in-depth interviews with domestic workers, civil society organisations and trade unions from across ten EU Member States and covers their enjoyment of fundamental rights in five areas: working conditions, dismissal, freedom of association, redress mechanisms and family life.
Domestic work undertaken by employees is typically less regulated by legal standards and enforcement mechanisms (such as labour inspectorates) than other forms of employment.
Domestic work is typically carried out by women - and often migrant women in an irregular situation - who are vulnerable to multiple discrimination because of gender-based forms of violence, including sexual assault, as well as racial discrimination.
They typically work for long hours and low pay. Rest periods, paid holidays, and paid sick leave are often not provided, even if available under legislation.
A number of physical and mental occupational illnesses were reported, which are exacerbated by the situation of irregular migrants. The threat or fear of dismissal, lack of affordable health care, and lack of paid sick leave was found to deter individuals from seeking medical assistance or taking time to recover - even where injury resulted from work accidents. This sometimes leads to chronic injuries or permanent disability.
Individuals seeking access to justice for exploitation or abuse face several barriers. Principally they are deterred by the fear of public bodies alerting the immigration authorities, who may then deport them. Because their employment is often not formalised through a written contract, they also face difficulties in producing evidence of an employment relationship. Similarly, because they work in a domestic context, it can be challenging to prove alleged abuse, for example through a witness.
The report suggests several ways forward, including:
The introduction for all domestic workers of clear standards that: impose limits on payments in kind; ensure that where a minimum wage exists in national law, it also covers domestic workers; guarantee rest and sick leave; and create safe and healthy working conditions, as provided for by the ILO Convention adopted in June 2011.
Extending supervision by labour inspection authorities to the domestic work sector.
The introduction of targeted migration programmes where demand for domestic work is found to exist, which is not met by the available workforce. This would ensure that these workers have a regular migration status and so can enjoy better protection.
Facilitate access to justice by ensuring greater support for trade unions and non-governmental organisations which play a key role in providing legal assistance for victims of abuse or exploitation.
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)