Sunday 18 March 2018

New rules to stop abuse of domestic workers

Thobeka Dlamini. Photo Brian Farrell
Thobeka Dlamini. Photo Brian Farrell
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

NEW rules have been introduced by the Government to prevent the abuse of domestic staff by diplomats.

The move comes after at least eight cases in recent years where domestic slavery claims were made against foreign diplomats living here.

The most recent involved the former charges d'affaires of the South African embassy, Thobeka Dlamini, right, who is alleged to have paid a servant just €1.66 an hour and forced her to work 17-hour days.

The diplomat, who disputes the claims, left the country for a new post earlier this year after the allegations were revealed by the Irish Independent.

Previously there were no specific rules for diplomats, other than that they were expected to abide by the laws of the country and best employment practice.

But several cases emerged where staff claimed to have been exploited and poorly paid or not paid at all. Efforts to prosecute the diplomats involved were unsuccessful, as they either invoked diplomatic immunity or left the country.

Under the new rules, which campaigners have been seeking for years, diplomats will have to agree to abide by Irish employment law, including the minimum wage.

Staff will have to be provided with pay slips and paid electronically into a bank account only accessible to the employee.

The diplomats must also agree to labour inspections.

Prospective employees will have to be 21 or older and must not be related to the diplomat or their spouse.

At the point of recruitment in their country of origin, the domestic worker will meet with an Irish embassy official to be briefed on their rights and entitlements.

The diplomat employing them will also have to provide comprehensive health and accident insurance plans for the employee. Nations whose diplomats breach the new guidelines face having visa applications and renewals refused in offending cases.

The extensive guidelines were announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The new measures were welcomed by the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI), which said it began encountering exploitation cases involving diplomats in 2005.

"This is about creating a culture of rights for foreign domestic workers. It will require monitoring, but we believe this will have a strong impact and improve the lives of domestic workers coming to work here for diplomats," said spokeswoman Grainne O'Toole.

Irish Independent

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