Who are Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs)? Migrant Domestic Workers are non-EU migrants who enter the UK to work within a private household doing housekeeping, care work and other tasks. They accompany a specific employer and their work visa allows them to stay for a year and apply to renew at the end of the year. They may also change employer to continue doing the same type of work.
These rights were deservedly won (in 1997) after decades of hard campaigning by migrant domestic workers and their supporters, in recognition of their status as “employees”, and not family members.
However the unique position of MDWs, all of them, alone in their employers homes, still leaves them isolated and vulnerable to abuse, and frequently unaware of their rights.
Read Ramani’s case….
Ramani is 40 and comes from India. She has been a domestic worker for almost ten years, and worked in Singapore and India before arriving in the UK in 2005.
|© Anti-Slavery International|
Ramani was psychologically abused by her first employer in the UK, who told her ‘we have the money, we have the power; you have no rights’.
This exemplifies the kind of power employers have over domestic workers. Ramani had no idea what her rights were when she first arrived in the UK. So she believed her employer and her threats. She was told, for example, that if she left the house she would be kidnapped and raped. She suffered serious racial abuse. She was frequently threatened with physical violence, and was never paid the £270 a week she was promised.
After less than four months with this employer, Ramani ran away, only to find a second employer who also abused her psychologically and shouted at her constantly. The employer’s husband sexually molested her at night, coming into her bedroom which did not have a lock. She was promised £300 a week. But she was not paid regularly and is still owed a large sum of money. Ramani tolerated it for five months, so she could obtain a recommendation letter and renew her visa. Her third employer treated her better, but she was still overworked and underpaid as she often had 24 hour shift being a carer for a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Ramani must continue to work. ‘Employers are bad, but too many mouths [are] dependent on me’, she says.