Domestic workers

UK immigration rules mean reforms to give domestic workers access to the minimum wage will be difficult to enforce

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Reforms to remove legal exemptions to give live-in domestic workers access to the minimum wage are an important step against the devaluation of this work, but will be difficult to enforce because of UK immigration rules, according to a new study.

People who live and work in private households have been excluded from minimum wage regulations if they live in their employer’s family home and are treated “like a member of the family”, which is part of the wider loopholes the protection of domestic workers in labor law.

The government recently agreed to repeal the exemption, but an expert has warned that domestic workers will continue to face difficulties in enforcing payment of the minimum wage if they do not have permission to work. The research says this creates a “significant hurdle” if they want to pursue their salary demands.

The study, carried out by Dr Natalie Sedacca of the University of Exeter Law School and published open access in the Industrial law reviewargues that domestic workers’ longer hours and difficulties in determining what hours count as “work” lead to abusive employment relationships.

Dr Sedacca said: “The ‘family worker’ exemption and its application to domestic workers devalues ​​domestic work as work done in the home, mainly by women, and leads to it being seen as unskilled work. or even as not working at all. Although not specifically provided for by Parliament, in some cases courts and tribunals have sanctioned the use of the exemption by employers to avoid payment of the minimum wage to domestic workers who are clearly not au pairs.

“It is very positive that the government has finally agreed to repeal the ‘family worker exemption’ in March 2022. Yet there remains a pressing need for further reforms to prevent the law from reinforcing and replicating the devaluation of work domestic.”

The study says the lack of secure immigration status will also prevent domestic workers from making wage claims. Section 34 of the Immigration Act 2016 created an imprisonable offense of ‘unlawful employment’ where a person works knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe they do not have permission to work .

Dr Sedacca said: “The current situation makes the claims of irregular migrants very uncertain and difficult to present. At the same time, domestic workers are particularly susceptible to falling into irregular status due to the unfavorable visa, which is limited to a six-month period. non-renewable period due to the supposedly “low-skilled” nature of domestic work and the reproductive needs of employers. The impact of the migration regime is to “produce” workers with particular types of relationships with employers and labor markets. in the case of domestic work, it means producing workers who are systematically disadvantaged in the exercise of their rights.”


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More information:
Natalie Sedacca, Domestic workers, the minimum wage exemption for “family workers” and the gendered devaluation of women’s work, Industrial law review (2022). DOI: 10.1093/indlaw/dwac005

Provided by the University of Exeter


Quote: UK immigration rules mean reforms to give domestic workers access to minimum wage will be difficult to enforce (2022, May 3) Retrieved May 3, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022- 05-uk-immigration-reforms-domestic-workers.html

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