A new survey—the first in Ukraine to evaluate domestic workers’ working conditions—found that working without contracts and formal recognition has left most survey respondents victim to low pay, wage theft, confusion about employment status, exclusion from the country’s pension system and minimal capacity to exercise their right to freedom of association.

“What kind of pension will we have? God grant that it will be at all,” said survey respondent Kateryna (last name withheld for privacy).

Survey results documenting the pitfalls of domestic worker informal employment was presented to an in-person and virtual gathering of domestic workers, employment agencies and national union representatives last month. Survey results presented to event attendees—who included representatives of the new domestic worker organization, United Home Staff (UHS) and Tetiana Tsyba, Ukraine Member of Parliament and head of the parliamentary working group on proposed domestic worker law Number 5695.

Most survey respondents reported working without the legal protections and pension benefits afforded to formally recognized workers. While some were employed under various forms of contracts—including employment agency contracts (5 percent), civil law contracts (12 percent) or employment contracts (22 percent)—more than 60 percent said they were working without formal terms and conditions of employment.  

Additional findings include:

  • Almost 60 percent reported wage theft or insufficient compensation for work performed.
  • Almost half said they do not get pay increases for overtime or weekend work; a quarter said their employer encourages overtime work without additional pay.
  • Almost half said they do not receive paid vacation time.
  • 60 percent were unaware of trade unions or other organizations that can represent or otherwise assist domestic workers.
  • Most (69 percent) have worked informally throughout their careers, making them ineligible for Ukraine’s pension system.

Many internally displaced people who lost work because of war have become domestic workers, including those previously employed as university professors and schoolteachers. Of those surveyed, more than 60 percent working without a contract reported lower wages during wartime.

The survey was sponsored by the Ukraine nongovernmental worker rights organization Labor Initiatives (LI), to raise awareness of challenges in the sector for workers, support the country’s legislative efforts to formalize domestic work and encourage unions to organize domestic workers. With Solidarity Center support, LI supplies legal and other assistance to Ukraine’s workers and unions.

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