International Domestic Workers' Day

On International Domestic Workers' Day, a small charity in Holland Park highlights the abuse faced by migrants working in private households across the UK. By Matt Reynolds.

The Lady has been matching private staff with families since 1885 and as a member of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation it has high professional standards. In their terms and conditions, if the working conditions for the candidate are found to be unreasonable and they leave the role, then the employer does not get a refund for the recruitment fee. Most decent people would agree that this is a fair way to encourage positive and professional relationships between families and their staff. It's a different story however for the 20,000 migrant domestic workers who travel to the UK with their employers each year. Due to restrictions tied to their visa, it is much harder for these workers to leave when their conditions become 'unreasonable'.

I volunteer with Kalayaan, a small charity based in Holland Park which support these workers with practical advice and support. Every time someone registers at Kalayaan for assistance, they are asked questions about their experience working both abroad and in the UK. They are also asked questions about the process they went through when they applied for their visa, a process that many report having little to no control over.

Migrant domestic workers are issued a non-renewable visa valid for six months. Once in the UK, should these workers experience abuse, they find themselves with little options to seek redress against bad employers. Should they leave their employers citing abuse, they have to demonstrate their work amounted to slavery if they wish to remain in the UK once their visa expires.

Kalayaan has been campaigning for a change in the law so that workers are better protected and able to challenge abuse when it arises. They are asking for workers to have the unconditional right to change employer and the right to renew their visa, so long as they can show their labour is still required. The domestic worker visa is issued without recourse to public funds, so these workers pose no burden to the UK taxpayer. There is only a net gain in the contribution this workforce makes economically as well as socially.

Sunday 16 June 2024 is International Domestic Workers' Day. To mark this day and highlight the plight of this workforce, Kalayaan has released new research on the experiences of workers in the UK. I support their calls for better laws to protect this workforce. I stand for Workers' Rights. I hope supporters of The Lady will stand with us. Kalayaan's new report is called 12 years of modern slavery and is available to read on their website.

Matt Reynolds is a researcher at the London School of Economics and Policy Volunteer at Kalayaan. To learn more about Kalayaan and their work, visit their website and follow them on X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

Are you interested in a career in domestic work? Please take a look at our jobs page here to see our latest vacancies.