Soon after organizing to advocate for formal recognition as workers and protections at work, domestic workers in Ukraine won a significant victory when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a new law on May 22 regulating domestic work and affording new protections to domestic workers.

Significantly, the law recognizes and defines domestic work and domestic workers, and affords them all labor rights and guarantees, including normal working hours, overtime compensation, daily and weekly rest periods, and paid annual leave. It guarantees domestic workers’ right to a safe and healthy work environment and makes employers responsible for ensuring safe working conditions. The law also establishes an employment contract as the primary means of formalizing the working relationship and sets a minimum age for domestic workers.

Last year, the first survey to evaluate the working conditions of Ukraine’s domestic workers found that lacking contracts and formal recognition left most respondents vulnerable 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. Most reported working without formal terms and conditions of employment.

“This is an important development for Ukraine’s human rights protection and Euro-integration efforts,” said Tristan Masat, Solidarity Center Ukraine country program director. “Domestic and care workers are among the most isolated and vulnerable groups in the economy, and with so many Ukrainians working in-household jobs in the EU, it’s valuable to see the government take a strong and progressive position on the rights of these workers in Ukraine.” 

Tetiana Lauhina, founder of the Union of Home Staff

While the new law allows domestic workers and employers to codify the terms of employment in a contract and protects domestic workers under Ukraine’s labor laws, much work remains to enforce the law and secure better protections for domestic workers.

Tetiana Lauhina, founder of the Union of Home Staff, said the law has been a long time in coming. “We have been waiting for this law since 2015. It’s a strong step in the right direction.  Next, we’d like to see the International Labor Organization’s Convention 189 on domestic workers ratified by Ukraine. Its ratification and implementation is a major goal for the Union of Home Staff.”

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the News from The Solidarity Center