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Hiring house servants a hard task

November 28, 2010

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Though Islamabad is free from many basic civic problems confronting other cities, some of its issues are novel and invisible that, however, badly affects the domestic life of its residents. Hiring a house servant/maid is one of them.

Unfortunately, there is no law in Islamabad, and other parts of the country as well, which can bind both house servants/maids and their employers in legal framework so that the rights of both the sides can be safeguarded.

It has been observed that sometimes the house owner or employer does injustice with the servant but in some cases servants/maids have also been found dishonest and disloyal to the employers. There are cases when servants were found involved in theft in the houses where they worked and in some instances they even killed their employers.

Where one should safeguard the rights of the poor and low income working class, the rights of those who provide jobs to poor men and women as servants and maids should also be ensured.

It has been observed that sometimes house maids and servants are mistreated by their employers but there are also incidences in which they created problems for the employers and exploited the situation by threatening that they would stop working.

Some of the housewives who were contacted on the issue said keeping servants or maids in Islamabad was one of the most difficult tasks because the demand of servants kept on increasing. The main reason for this is that finding jobs for house servants and cooks is not difficult because they easily find works on higher salaries even in the next door of their current workplaces.

Majority of servants and maids keep changing their workplaces after short intervals because of better salary they are offered or to escape the work load in their existing places.

One can observe that the salaries being paid to the house servants and maids in Islamabad are the highest compared to other cities. For example, a servant who gets Rs5,000 per month in Islamabad easily gets an opportunity to have new job even in the next door at Rs6,000 or more. However, the situation in other cities, including those in the vicinity of Islamabad like Rawalpindi, is different, because in these areas they are in higher number and the average salaries are comparatively lower.

It always pinches the employers when a servant or maid says goodbye to the job, because in most of the cases they joined the work with raw hands and after being trained by the employers opt for other places at better packages.

Sometimes frequent changing of house servants and maids can also insecure the employers and their families, as when one is allowed to work in the house he/she becomes familiar with the environment and can easily commit crimes like stealing.

In Islamabad, most of the men and women who work in houses live in shanty settlements. Majority of these people are the dwellers of Mehrabad village, where Sector G-12 and F-12 are to be built. Hundreds of small houses in the village provide cheap accommodation to the low-paid working class but there are reports that some anti-state elements involved in criminal activities and terrorism also seek safe refuge in this area. According to a report prepared by the Islamabad police, Mehrabad has become a den of criminals and anti-state elements.

Most of the families living in this area are not locals and have come here from different parts of the country, mainly Punjab. Therefore, people usually hire servants on personal guarantees. The whole situation requires laws for both servants and employers under which they should be registered with the relevant police station so that they can be treated accordingly if they commit any crime or suppress each other's rights.

Few years ago the local police launched a campaign urging the people to ensure registration of their servants, drivers and maids with the relevant police station but majority of the people did not comply with the instructions.

But in some areas, residents have formed their committees and hired the services of private security guards to prevent street crime and car theft. One such committee in G-10/3 has bound all the inhabitants of the street to get their servants and maids registered with the management of the committee to protect the rights of both the servants/maids and the employers.

It is suggested that citizen committees should be formed in every sector to address the issue of workers and employers.