Domestic workers in New Zealand and the implications of International Labour Organization Convention No. 189
There are an estimated 52.6 million domestic workers in the world, 83 per cent of whom are women, and many of whom work in poor conditions for low pay. Globally, domestic work is an under-regulated and under-valued sector. In an effort to address the precariousness of domestic work, the International Labour Organization adopted Convention No 189, concerning decent work for domestic workers. The Convention came into force on 5 September 2013. It provides for global minimum standards in areas in respect to which domestic workers should enjoy employment and social protection. The rights of domestic workers in New Zealand are addressed in a number of pieces of legislation, including the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, and the Human Rights Act 1993. Although some categories of domestic worker receive protection under the legislation, others do not. This paper argues that the coverage of domestic workers in New Zealand is confusing and incomplete. For many domestic workers in New Zealand low pay and poor working conditions are a reality. If New Zealand’s domestic workers are to receive the same protection as other New Zealand employees and those domestic workers in nations that have ratified Convention No 189, then ratification of the Convention and associated domestic legislative change may be necessary to bring domestic law into line with international labour law. In the absence of ratification there are a number of options that could be pursued to improve the working lives of domestic workers in New Zealand.