The Experience of Twenty Migrant Women Employed in the Private Home in Ireland 2004
‘Private Homes: A Public Concern’ is an important and disturbing piece of research. It raises issues that demand attention and require an urgent response. It gives a voice for the first time to migrant women employed in the private home. It allows a first hand account of their experience and situation. This research empowers these migrant workers by supporting them to remove the invisibility that has to date surrounded the difficulties they face.
This report holds up a mirror to our new wealthy society. The image revealed is of a society where a harsh exploitation of a group that are particularly vulnerable and isolated is taking place and is being allowed to take place. The experiences and situations described encompass exploitation in terms of: pay and deductions from pay; the broad and varied range of tasks allocated; long hours of work; and of lack of access to holiday and leave entitlements. The research reveals a group that are actively disempowered by employment practices, isolation, and limited access to information.
The experience of discrimination by migrant workers has emerged as a significant focus for the Equality Authority in our casework. Domestic workers have sought redress under the Employment Equality Act 1998. However, previous to the enactment of the Equality Act 2004 in July 2004 this was not possible as employment in a private household was exempt. That situation has now changed as the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004 provide some protection for migrant workers in domestic employment. The recruitment of people into private households continues to be exempt. This new protection for migrant women employed in the private home will hopefully deter employers from discrimination and stimulate an employment practice that is non discriminatory, that makes adjustment for cultural and linguistic diversity, and that promotes equality. This is an outcome that the Equality Authority looks forward to contributing to.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland is to be congratulated for this research project. It is important that the project is located within a wider commitment from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland to migrant women employed in the private home. This wider commitment usefully includes support of these workers alongside advocacy on their behalf. This work is central to improving the situation and experience of migrant workers.
Chief Executive Officer