Domestic Workers in Pakistan

All the information about domestic workers, including minimum wages, rights, labour laws, working hours in Pakistan. Domestic work is part of the huge informal sector in Pakistan. Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance governs the domestic workers rights.

Is there any law in Pakistan, which governs domestic workers?

Domestic work is part of the huge informal sector (around 73% of the total Pakistani economy, as indicated by official sources) and thus the existing labour laws are not applicable to this sector.

There are no precise estimates of the total number of domestic workers in the country, however, according to a study, every fourth household in the country hires a domestic worker, and the majority of these workers is females (especially children). Moreover, according to an ILO study, around 4-10% of total employment in developing countries is in the domestic work sector.

The labour laws mention domestic workers only twice. The Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance 1965 (applicable in Balochistan, ICT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab) requires an employer to provide health care (including maternity care) to the full-time domestic workers (Section 55-A). A similar provision is also found in  Sindh Employees’ Social Security Act 2016 (section 59).  The Minimum Wages Ordinance of 1961 (applicable in Balochistan, ICT, and Punjab) also includes domestic workers in the definition of workers however government has not notified the minimum wages as applicable to these workers under this law. No such provision is found in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wages Act 2013 and Sindh Minimum Wages Act 2015. 

The first bill on domestic workers - Domestic Workers (Employment Rights) Act 2013 - to bring them under the jurisdiction of labour laws, was drafted and presented in Senate in 2013. It was again submitted in 2015 and has been passed by the Senate in 2017. The Bill is now under discussion by the relevant National Assembly Committee. The Bill aims to protect the rights of the domestic workers, to regulate their employment and conditions of service and to provide them with social security, safety, health facility and welfare. It gives domestic workers with all those rights available to other formal sector workers and creates a specialised domestic workers welfare fund. 

Punjab has already announced a domestic workers policy in 2015 which provides for the establishment of a Domestic Workers Registration Authority to register worker however no such authority has been constituted yet. Punjab enacted the Domestic Workers Act in early 2019 to regulate the working conditions of domestic workers. 

How does Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2109 Define the Domestic worker?

Domestic work is defined as any work which takes place within or for the household and includes child care, old age care, sick care or natal/post-natal care (a pregnant woman’s care before and after childbirth) and other related matters.

Is there any law which regulates the age of Employment in domestic work?

The Punjab Domestic workers Act 2019 specifies the minimum age for employment as 15 years. A child above the age of 15 but under 18 may be employed only for light work. Light work is defined as all such activities which do not negatively impact a child’s health, security and education. This also means that children above 15 may be engaged for part-time work until the completion of compulsory education. 

What Right and Entitlements are established under Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019?

Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019 enumerates various the rights and entitlement of domestic worker. The law forbids the use of the word “servant” for a domestic worker. It prohibits the engagement of a domestic worker in a labour system or forced or partly forced labour system. The Act further proscribes discrimination against a domestic worker on the basis of religion, race, caste, creed, sex, ethnic background, and place of birth/residence, domicile, migration or any other reason. For extra work, a domestic worker’s consent is needed. Moreover, it requires extra compensation. Occupational safety and health measures should be guaranteed, and the worker should be provided with dignified working conditions. Domestic workers are provided with sickness and medical care, accident compensation, disability payments and survivor pensions in line with the provisions of the Punjab Social Security Ordinance 1965.

What are the leave entitlements for Domestic Workers under Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019?

Domestic workers are entitled to a weekly rest day. The other leaves/holidays are as follows:

  1. Sick leave:8 days
  2. Maternity leave:6 weeks
  3. Festival/public holidays:10 days

Sick leave, if not availed during a year, can be carried forward to the next year; however, total accumulated sick leave cannot exceed 16 days. Workers are eligible for their full wages during all these leaves/holidays.

Does the law require the provision of an employment contract?

The Punjab Domestic Workers Act requires the provision of an employment contract to the domestic workers. A copy of the employment contract must be forwarded to the labour inspector of the area. A worker may not be required to perform work which is not specified in the contract. Termination of employment is subject to one month’s prior notice in writing either by the domestic by either party or payment in lieu of the notice.

What are the working hours and overtime rates for domestic workers?

The normal working hours are 8 hours a day and 48 hours a week. The maximum hours of work inclusive of overtime are specified as 56 hours per week. The overtime rates shall be prescribed under the rules.

What does the law say about payment of wages to the workers?

The Punjab Domestic Workers Act allows for setting domestic workers’ wages through employment contracts with the condition that such a wage is not less than the minimum wage specified by the government in this regard. The law further prohibits discrimination in wages for work of equal value on the ground of gender.

What Are Maternity benefits given under Punjab Domestic Worker Act 2019?

A female domestic worker is allowed to have 6-week maternity leave with full maternity benefits, including full wages during the period.

What does the law say about the provision of accommodation to a domestic worker?

The employer is required to provide and ensure the accommodation of live-in domestic worker under decent living conditions.

What are the time and conditions for payment of wages?

The maximum wage payment period is one month. Workers must be paid wages within five days of the completion of the wage period. Wage period can be fixed on an hourly, daily, weekly basis but cannot exceed one month. Wages must be paid on working days rather than on holidays and in local currency. In case of termination of employment of a domestic worker, the wages earned by him/her shall be paid before the expiry of the second working day from the day on which his/her employment is terminated. 

What is the procedure of registration of domestic workers under the Punjab Domestic Worker Act 2019?

In order to get facilities under the “Domestic Workers Welfare Fund" provide under the Punjab Domestic Workers Act, the worker must register with the Labour Department in the prescribed manner. Workers are also provided with a single security number and Identity card, which can be renewable after three years. Domestic workers can use the following form to register themselves. (Eng)

What is the procedure of registration of employer under Punjab Domestic Worker Act 2019?

The employers can register themselves after submitting the application for registration. Employers are also allotted with the registration numbers. The registration of an employer is renewable after three years. Employers engaging domestic workers can register themselves using the following link:

How does the Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance define domestic work?

According to this law, a domestic servant is “any person working whole-time in connection with the work of any household for any consideration, whether in cash or in-kind”.

This law requires an employer, employing a domestic worker, to provide his domestic servant with full medical care at his own cost. However, there is no mechanism provided in this law to check as to whether an employer is following this requirement or not.  

Can domestic workers form unions?

In accordance with article 17 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, “every citizen has the right to form associations or unions, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality”. In view of the above, domestic workers are free to form associations/unions. The first even union of domestic workers under the name of Domestic Workers’ Union has been registered in Lahore under the provisions of the Punjab Industrial Relations Act, 2010 (early 2015). This union currently has more than 2000 female domestic workers as its members.

What are the common types of domestic work in Pakistan?

Domestic work employs a large part of female workers. The two most common types are child domestic labour and bonded/forced labour. Child domestic labour is when a child (under the age of 14 years) is employed to perform a work in a household. According to an ILO study (2004), there are 264,000 child domestic workers in Pakistan. Most of these children are employed as bonded/forced labourers working under the debt bondage. These children or women are working to pay off the debt accrued by their parents or family members.

Broadly, they can be divided into two main groups: live-in and live-out (day based and task-specific). According to the Labour Force Survey 2014-15, there are 0.464 million domestic workers in the country. Of these, 0.1 million are live-in domestic workers while 0.364 million are either day based or task-specific.*  

As per ILO considerations, this type of domestic work, where a child is working under debt bondage, working for long hours, during the night and is unreasonably confined to the premises of an employer, is the worst form of child labour.

ILO Convention 189 requires the members to set a minimum age for domestic work. This minimum age must be consistent with ILO core conventions on child labour, i.e., Convention 138 and 182 and cannot be lower than the general minimum age. Convention 189 and its Recommendation (201) also suggest identifying hazardous domestic work and prohibiting children under 18 from such work. The child rights organizations have been demanding in Pakistan to include child domestic labour in the list of hazardous works and prohibit employment of children under 18 in domestic work. 

What are the issues faced by domestic workers in Pakistan and worldwide?

The domestic workers face the following issues.

  1. Long and unlimited hours of work
  2. Heavy workload
  3. Lack of legal protection
  4. Violence and abuse at work, either physical, psychological or sexual
  5. Forced labour/child labour and trafficking of domestic workers
  6. No minimum wage protection and low salaries
  7. No labour inspection and law enforcement
  8. The weaker collective bargaining position
  9. Poor living quarters
  10. Insufficient food
  11. Lack of privacy