Primer on ILO Convention 189

Primer on ILO Convention 189

Domestic work is work. Domestic workers are, like other workers,
entitled to decent work.

On 16 June 2011, the International Labour Conference of the International Labour
Organization adopted the Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers,
which is also referred to as the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189).

What is Convention No. 189 ?

What is a Convention of the ILO?

A treaty adopted by the International
Labour Conference, which is made up
of government, worker and employer
delegates from the 183 member States
of the ILO.

What is the ILO Convention 189?

Convention No. 189 offers specifi c
protection to domestic workers. It
lays down basic rights and principles,
and requires States to take a series of
measures with a view to making decent
work a reality for domestic workers.

What does it mean to ratify
a Convention?

When a country ratifi es a Convention,
its government formally makes a
commitment to implement all the
obligations provided in the Convention,
and to report periodically to the ILO on
the measures taken in this regard.

Recommendation No. 201 – how is it
related to the Convention?

Domestic Workers Recommendation
No. 201, also adopted by the
International Labour Conference
of 2011, supplements Convention
No. 189. Unlike the Convention,
Recommendation No. 201 is not open
for ratifi cation. The Recommendation
provides practical guidance
concerning possible legal and other
measures to implement the rights and
principles stated in the Convention.

How is the Convention to be

The Convention may be implemented
by extending or adapting existing laws
and regulations or other measures,
or by developing new and specifi c
measures for domestic workers.
Some of the measures required
under the Convention may be taken

Who is covered by Convention No. 189 ?

What is domestic work?

Convention No. 189 defi nes domestic
work as “work performed in or for a
household or households”.
This work may include tasks such as
cleaning the house, cooking, washing
and ironing clothes, taking care of
children, or elderly or sick members of a
family, gardening, guarding the house,
driving for the family, even taking care
of household pets.

Who is a domestic worker?

Under the Convention, a domestic
worker is “any person engaged in
domestic work within an employment

A domestic worker may work on
full-time or part-time basis; may be
employed by a single household or by
multiple employers; may be residing in
the household of the employer (live-in
worker) or may be living in his or her own
residence (live-out). A domestic worker
may be working in a country of which
she/he is not a national.

All domestic workers are covered by
Convention No. 189, although countries
may decide to exclude some categories,
under very strict conditions.

Who is the employer of
a domestic worker?

The employer of a domestic worker may
be a member of the household for which
the work is performed, or an agency
or enterprise that employs domestic
workers and makes them available to

In implementing the Convention, will
workers and employers be consulted?

The provisions of the Convention are to
be implemented in consultation with
the most representative workers’ and
employers’ organizations (Article 18).

In addition, the Convention requires
Governments to consult with the
most representative organizations of
employers and workers and, where
they exist, with organizations that
represent domestic workers and
organizations that represent employers
of domestic workers on four particular
matters: (i) identifying categories
of workers who would be excluded
from the scope of the Convention; (ii)
measures on occupational safety and
health; (iii) measures on social security;
and (iv) measures to protect workers
from abusive practices by private
employment agencies (Articles 2, 13 &

What can domestic workers do to
enjoy the protections offered by
Convention No. 189?

Convention No. 189 affi rms the fundamental rights of domestic workers.
It sets minimum labour standards for
domestic workers.

Domestic workers can:

  • organize & mobilize support for the
    ratifi cation and implementation
    of the Convention by their
  • use the provisions of the Convention
    and the Recommendation to
    infl uence changes in laws and
    improve the working and living
    conditions of domestic workers,
    regardless of whether or not the
    country in which they work has
    ratifi ed Convention No. 189.

What are the minimum standards set by
Convention No. 189 for domestic workers?

Basic rights of domestic workers

  • Promotion and protection of the human rights of all domestic workers (Preamble; Article 3).
  • Respect and protection of fundamental principles and rights at work: (a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; (b) elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; (c) abolition of child labour; and (d) elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (Articles 3, 4, 11).
  • Effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence (Article 5).
  • Fair terms of employment and decent living conditions (Article 6).

Information on terms and conditions of employment

  • Domestic workers must be informed of their terms and conditions of employment in an easily understandable manner, preferably through a written contract (Article 7).

Hours of work

  • Measures aimed at ensuring equal treatment between domestic workers and workers generally with respect to normal hours of work, overtime compensation, periods of daily and weekly rest, and annual paid leave (Article 10).
  • Weekly rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours (Article 10).
  • Regulation of stand-by hours (periods during which domestic workers are not free to dispose of their time as they please and are required to remain at the disposal of the household in order to respond to possible calls) (Article 10).


  • Minimum wage if a minimum wage exists for other workers (Article 11).
  • Payment of wages must be paid in cash, directly to the worker, and at regular interval of no longer than one month. Payment by cheque or bank transfer – when allowed by law or collective agreements, or with worker’s consent (Article 12).
  • In-kind payment is allowed under 3 conditions: only a limited proportion of total remuneration; monetary value is fair and reasonable; the items or services given as in-kind payment are of personal use by and benefit to the workers. This means  that uniforms or protective equipment are not to be regarded as payment in kind, but as tools that the employer must provide to the workers at no cost to them for the performance of their duties (Article 12).
  • Fees charged by private employment agencies are not to be deducted from the remuneration (Article 15).

Occupational safety and health

  • Right to safe and healthy working environment (Article 13).
  • Measures are put in place to ensure workers’ occupational safety and health (Article 13).

Social security

  • Social security protection, including maternity benefits (Article 14).
  • Conditions that are not less favourable than those applicable to workers generally (Article 14).

Standards concerning child domestic

  • Requirement to set a minimum age for entry into domestic work (Article 4).
  • Domestic workers aged 15 years old but less than 18 years old – their work should not deprive them of compulsory education, or interfere with their opportunities for further education or vocational training (Article 4).

Standards concerning live-in workers

  • Decent living conditions that respect the workers’ privacy (Article 6).
  • Freedom to reach agreement with their employers or potential employers on whether or not to reside in the household (Article 9).
  • No obligation to remain in the household or with its members during their periods of rest or leave (Article 9).
  • Right to keep their identity and travel documents in their possession (Article 9).
  • Regulation of stand-by hours (Article 10).

Standards concerning migrant domestic

  • A written contract that is enforceable in the country of employment, or a written job offer, prior to traveling to the country of employment (Article 8).
  • Clear conditions under which domestic workers are entitled to repatriation at the end of their employment (Article 8).
  • Protection of domestic workers from abusive practices by private employment agencies (Article 15).
  • Cooperation among sending and receiving countries to ensure the effective application of the provisions of the Convention to migrant
    domestic workers (Article 8).

Private employment agencies

Measures to be put in place (Article 15):

  • regulate of the operation of private employment agencies;
  • ensure adequate machinery for the investigation of complaints by domestic workers;
  • provide adequate protection of domestic workers and prevention of
    abuses, in collaboration with other Members where appropriate;
  • consider concluding bilateral, regional or multilateral agreements to prevent abuses and fraudulent practices.

Dispute settlement, complaints,

  • Effective access to the court, tribunals or other dispute settlement
    mechanisms, including accessible complaint mechanisms (Article 17).
  • Measures to be put in place to ensure compliance with national laws for the protection of domestic workers, including labour inspection measures. In in regard, the Convention recognizes the need to balance domestic workers’ right to protection and the right to privacy of the households’ members (Article 17).

For more information, please contact us,
or the nearest International Labour Offi ce in your country or region.

Full text of Convention No. 189 is available at:
Full text of Recommendation No. 201 is available at:

Conditions of Work and Employment Programme (TRAVAIL)

Social Protection Sector
International Labour Offi ce
Route des Morillons 4
CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland

Tel. +41 22 799 67 54
Fax. +41 22 799 84 51

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