Sometimes this seems to work well, and some domestic workers do find good jobs in this way, other times it does not. Workers come back to us reporting that when they arrive for interview they are told completely different terms and conditions to those advertised. What is incredible is how many potential employers don’t even check that they comply with basic conditions such as the National Minimum Wage before they return the form to us, even if they go on to amend this following a phone call from us it doesn’t give us any faith that the job will be a decent one or that they have thought through their responsibilities as an employer.
Many domestic workers ‘live in’ their employers’ home. While this can be to their advantage, particularly in terms of being able to save more without paying rent or travel costs, many actively chose to live out, or rent a room, perhaps with friends, where they can go during time off, or if they are dismissed with short notice.
Domestic workers are well aware of the disadvantages of living in, and how there are often few boundaries between working time and time off, with them going to the children at night, or employers asking them to ‘help out’ during their time off ‘you wouldn’t have time off from your own family would you?’
As increasing numbers of tribunal cases involving live in domestic workers show, when the number of hours worked are taken into account, few are paid anywhere near the National Minimum Wage (currently £5.93 an hour), let alone the living wage which is what we would recommend workers are paid at minimum. When workers are given responsibility for an employer’s children and their home it is odd to not then pay a wage which reflects the importance of their work. Yet this type of ‘helping’, ‘women’s’ work (it is incredibly challenging for male domestic workers to find employment) is still too often not seen as having any real economic value in spite of its importance to society as well as individual families.