Domestic worker Nila, who was employed by four different families in Pune at the time of the first lockdown, realised she may never be summoned back to work.
To her surprise and pleasure, no money was deducted from her pay during the months she wasn’t working. Because of this, I didn’t have a lot of money issues throughout that trying period.
In Maharashtra, domestic servants have been ordered to temporarily stop their work as word of the lockdown spreads across the state.
There was no way for them to know when or if they would be called back to work, and there was no guarantee of being paid at the end of the month.
After The Lockdown Was Lifted, What Happened?
Households that had domestic staff returned after the lockdown had been lifted were wary of calling them because they were worried about the virus spreading.
Many domestic employees were also out of work, which put them in a more precarious financial position with an unclear future.
In India’s vast unorganised sector, domestic workers including daily wage earners and labourers constitute a vital component of the economy. Due to the lack of regulation, there is a lot of potential for abuse in this industry.
During the epidemic, migrant workers in the unorganised sector lost their jobs and had to return to their home towns, which we have all seen and read about in harrowing detail.
However, there have been tales of optimism for domestic workers who weren’t all left stranded by the government’s decision.
As Jani, a domestic worker who has been in the industry for some time, explained:
My fears were aroused when I heard about the lockdown announcement. I worried about how I’d get by without a job or money throughout this period. Except me, there are no other earners in the household besides my spouse and my 12-year-old kid. This increased my level of worry. Even throughout the lockdown, the families where I work were kind enough to pay me my monthly salary.
She went on to say:
As the lockdown lifted, more people came to my house and personally gave me cash instead of using G-pay to transmit my salary. As a result, I had no issues throughout the shutdown. Domestic workers were permitted to return to work once the lockdown was ended, and every family I had previously worked with welcomed me back.”
Also see: If you haven’t already, it’s time to treat domestic workers with respect!
“My employers paid me my pending wages,” the employee reports.
My husband and I were both concerned about not receiving our monthly paychecks for the following several months,” said Varsha, who is a young mother of two. The first few days back home were like a holiday after a long period, so although I was concerned about work, I was also enjoying myself. However, as time passed, I became more eager to return to work.
Also, she said, “We had spent all of our money at home on basic foods like rice and daal. We had nothing left.” Things returned to normal after a while, and I was paid in full by everyone I worked for after that. That part didn’t bother me in the least.
The epidemic and ensuing lockdown caused Varsha no significant problems at work, but online education was a huge headache for her children.
For example, she mentioned how her kids lost a school year because she didn’t have a smartphone or internet connection.
In spite of domestic employees being vulnerable to abuse and exploitation since they are not covered by any labour laws, it’s encouraging to learn about the few exceptions when their employers don’t treat them like second-class citizens.
Almost all of the women who work as domestic helpers in homes (cooking, cleaning, sweeping, mopping, and so on) are the only ones earning an income.
Take a look at this article to learn more about how workplaces are making women’s domestic problems harder to see.
A significant number of domestic employees in the nation means that bringing this job under the umbrella of professional employment with appropriate contracts, entitlement to paid leave and health care assistance is very essential.
This would guarantee official employment, particularly for women, and include them in the country’s formal workforce.
As part of Kaksha Crisis’ authors training programme, the author is a Kaksha Correspondent.