How government schemes can help domestic workers

Every domestic worker in our state is entitled to certain benefits under a handful of government schemes. Unfortunately, neither the workers nor their employers are aware of these. Here is an explainer.

How many domestic workers know that they are entitled to a monthly pension of Rs 1000 a month once they turn 58? Or, that the state government’s schemes to financially support the marriage and education of their children could be a real life saver for them?

Forget the workers, even many employers, are not informed about it.

“Unfortunately, the state government does not promote these schemes enough and a lot of domestic workers are ignorant about them,” said S Palaniammal, Organising Secretary of Pen tholilalar Sangam (Women Workers Union). The union with 30,000 workers fights for the social and financial security of the members, besides sensitising them about the existing government schemes. 

Even though a large proportion of Indian households hire maids, the latter are still not part of the organised working sector. There are few laws for their welfare and upliftment at the central level, but the Tamil Nadu government has created a platform that can be of help. According to the Government Order 2018 issued by the state Labour and Employment department based on The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 every domestic worker is entitled to a set of benefits.

Let’s take an in-depth look at them and help them avail these. 

Welfare schemes

Domestic workers should enrol themselves as a member of the respective district Labour Welfare Board. The office is located at Chokkalingam Nagar, Teynampet.

The documents for this are: Ration card, Aadhaar card, Bank pass book, Smart card and Five passport size photos.

Applicants should fill the application at the office of the Welfare Board and provide the above proofs.  The board will then issue them a card, recognising them as a worker. “The worker can get the card in a month or two,” said Palaniammal. Owning a card ensures speedy availment of these schemes, which otherwise could languish for years at the revenue department.

Some of the key benefits accruing to domestic workers under this are:

  • The board credits Rs 5000 for women workers and Rs 3000 for men for marriage. The worker’s family is entitled to receive Rs 1 lakh for accidental death and an additional Rs 5000 to cover the funeral expenses. Though the amount is way lesser than the provisions for construction workers (5 lakhs and Rs 5,000 for funeral expenses), it would be helpful for the economically weaker workers. 
  •  Any child of a domestic worker studying in the 10th standard is entitled to receive Rs 1000 and Rs 1500 after they pass the board exams. Every girl child studying in the eleventh and twelfth standards should receive Rs 1,500 in both the years. This amount is Rs 1000 for a boy child.  
  • Kids studying Engineering are entitled to receive Rs 4000 a year. 
  • Domestic workers, who have crossed 58 years, should submit age certificate at the welfare board to receive a monthly pension of Rs 1000.  

Making their lives better

Domestic workers make our lives easy; but how can we uplift theirs? 

Every citizen can do her part by paying them the income they deserve. Every skilled worker (who cooks) should be paid a minimum of Rs 39 per hour, where as the unskilled worker (who cleans, washes etc) should be paid Rs 30.

There is no law about the mandatory monthly bonus for the domestic workers, but an additional one month salary should be given as bonus. “We do not need saree or sweets as bonus. This year, we requested our employers to give us the monthly bonus and surprisingly, 75% of them agreed,” said Thenmozhi P, a domestic worker at Besant Nagar and a member of the Pen tholilalar Sangam. 

But it’s not always about the money!

What else do workers like Thenmozhi expect? “We expect our owners to recognise us as helps and talk in a pleasant manner. That will make our work space healthy,” said Thenmozhi. 

There are no rules in India to ensure social support for domestic workers, but it is only human to follow these:  

  • A weekly rest day and additional wages for overtime work could allow the domestic worker to lead a secure life. 
  • Provide access to restrooms at the work space.
  • You could give share leftovers with them, but not stale or perished food. 
  • Do not discriminate against them by compelling them to sit on the floor or forbidding use of elevators or denying other basic requirements. 

We can go a step further by informing them about the available government schemes and helping them in choosing the right union.

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