Islamabad domestic workers bill gets approval of Senate body

Published September 15, 2021
This file photo shows a female domestic worker at work. — AFP/File
This file photo shows a female domestic worker at work. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the Islamabad Capital Territory Domestic Workers Bill 2021 after substantive amendments to ensure social protection and welfare, including working hours and minimum wages, for the workers.

The chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, Senator Walid Iqbal, termed the bill a ‘pioneer law’ for the underprivileged class of society.

The committee met for a discussion on the bill for the second consecutive day.

The bill provides legal cover for regulating the employment of domestic workers in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) besides protecting their rights. It also envisages improving the working conditions and terms of employment of domestic workers. The proposed legislation contains provisions for their social protection and welfare, including working hours, minimum wages, the entitlement of leaves, safety and medical care.

Legislation contains provisions for their social protection, welfare, including working hours, leaves and medical care

The minimum age of employment has been amended from 16 to 18 years in all sections of the bill. Hence 18 years has been set as the minimum age for engagement in the domestic employment.

During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, the lawmakers pointed out some serious lacunas with regards to the working hours of a domestic worker, compensation amount for extra work and a complaint/redressal mechanism.

A detailed discussion on the appellant authorities in terms of appeals and disputes of employers and workers was held. The committee decided to provide a comprehensive yet simple mechanism for filing complaints under the proposed law and providing relief.

A committee, comprising three members including a female, would be notified to receive complaints and appeals against the order of the committee could be filed with the ombudsperson.

Regarding the penalties for contravening the provisions of the bill, it was observed that the penalty of Rs10,000 was too meagre and should be raised to Rs100,000.

Clause 36 of the bill was amended to provide that rules under the law should be made by the ministry concerned within a period of six months. Members observed that delays in formulating rules hindered implementation of laws.

Committee members, including senators Sherry Rehman, Mohammad Tahir Bizinjo and Seeme Ezdi, lamented that officials from the Ministry of Law and Justice as well as the human rights ministry had not read the draft copy and come unprepared to brief the members.

The committee regretted that a senior panel of five members from both the ministries was present with little knowledge on the draft bill. The chairman pointed out glaring mistakes in in grammar, punctuations, spellings, capital letters and articles in the draft.

“Meticulous attention is required while reviewing the legislation and assisting committees,” the chairman said.The members unanimously approved amendments to the bill for the final copy to be shared with all the committee members for review prior to presenting it in the House before Sept 24.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021

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