Migrant female 'domestics ' exploited, says report


Foreign women employed as domestic workers in middle-class Irish homes are being subjected to widespread mistreatment and exploitation, according to a new report.

The Migrant Rights Centre says it has documented cases of low pay, excessive working hours, unreasonable working conditions, illegal deductions and threatened deportation among women working as domestic and care workers.

Support groups say the number of women employed in domestic service has increased dramatically in recent years, in line with the general rise in work permits and visas issued by authorities. There are no official figures on numbers employed in domestic service, although migrant groups estimate the figure to be in the region of 1,000.

The director of the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI), Ms Siobhán O'Donoghue, said the employees in domestic service were particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

"The stories contained in our study reflect the general trends being reported to the MRCI by migrant women employed in the private home. These women are working in local communities yet they are isolated in a way that makes them virtually invisible," she said.

"This is an expanding area of work in Ireland and we urgently need to put in place protections to ensure that these women have access to their employment rights." The report, to be published today, will say employers are often unaware of their responsibilities towards their employees, while recruitment agencies are actively misleading migrant workers they are placing in Irish homes.

The study details the experiences of 20 migrant women employed as domestic and care workers in Irish homes. Nineteen of the women claim they were exploited, while one woman tells of her positive experiences. "We wanted to show that domestic work can also be a positive experience for migrant women as well, provided employers are aware of their responsibilities and that employees rights are respected."

The report recommends that the State must put in place supports for domestic workers to access their rights, take action when their rights are violated, and strengthen protections already in place. It also calls for the definition and establishment of clear terms and conditions of employment for domestic workers.

It also calls for the establishment of a joint labour committee to determine rates of pay and working conditions, under the auspices of the Labour Court.

Ms O'Donoghue said: "In publishing this report, we hope that action will be taken to strengthen the protections in place for employees in the private home, and that there will be more vigilant monitoring of what is happening for these women. All sections of society have a role to play."