What will the law on seasonal work bring to women who are employed to clean, tidy up and care for children and the elderly?

"Part time workers will be equal in disenfranchisement and exploitation of their work."

The process of drafting amendments to the Law on simplified work engagement on seasonal jobs in certain activities has lasted since December last year, and the content of the future legal proposal has been criticized by trade unions and experts.

One of the areas which the Ministry of Labour, as the proposer of the future law on seasonal workers, wants to expand its effect to is the area of ​​domestic, auxiliary work and nursing care for children and the elderly. So far the area has not been adequately regulated legally, so a number of questions arise regarding the opportunities which this law can provide to women, who are predominantly engaged at this type of work. We have addressed some of these dilemmas in a recently published text.

Minister Darija Kisić Tepavčević believes that the bill can only be discussed in a public debate, so we didn’t receive any answers when we asked how will this law protect the labour rights and integrity of women who do housework, auxiliary work and take care of children and elderly people in employer’s private premises.

The experts, on the other hand, are willing to publicly express their views. That’s why we talked about possible issues with Dr. Mirjana Dokmanović, a research associate at the Centre for Legal Research of the Institute of Social Sciences. As a gender equality consultant for UN Women, whose representatives took part in drafting the bill as members of the working group, she analysed the impact of the draft law on gender equality.

“The bill lacks provisions regarding protection and control against mobbing and other types of harassment, including sexual harassment, to which women are particularly exposed. Even if it contained such provisions, the question would arise as to how their application and the control of employers would be ensured, especially when it comes to work performed within private spaces, such as cleaning, maintenance, taking care for children and the elderly,” says Dokmanović.

Dokmanović believes that the existing draft of this law provides women with occasional jobs with a very low level of security – payment of financial compensation, right to health insurance only in case of injuries at work and occupational diseases,  the right to rest, and working hours up to 12 hours a day. All this is “less than the rights” guaranteed by the Labour Law and the Law on Agency Business, which already contain more than flexible forms of employment.

“Additional flexibility of work on top of the existing one, along with stimulating work engagement in occasional jobs, will inevitably lead to precarization of work and open the door to new forms of abuse and exploitation of female labour.”

The law will lead to an increase in inequality

As we wrote earlier, the initiators of this law formally want to produce positive effects for women, that is, to bring those who now work illegally into legal channels and thus allow them to enjoy certain rights. However, Dokmanović thinks that the results would be quite the opposite:

“There will be more and more offers on the labour market for occasional, therefore, poorly paid jobs, and less and less well-paid jobs with guaranteed labour rights. This will lead to an increase in the number of women engaged in casual work, and thus to an increase in their economic and social insecurity and risk of poverty. “

Above all, Mirjana Dokmanović believes that this law would also contribute to the deepening of the gap between men’s and women’s income:

“The law supports the employers’ interest to pay the minimum wage to the worker, only as much as he has to, and keep the surplus value for himself. “Since women are more inclined to accept low-paid jobs than men, motivated by the need to provide a source of income for their children and family, the law will also contribute to the growth of the gender pay gap,” Dokmanović told Mašina.

“Occasional jobs by their nature provide neither economic nor social security”, which, as Dokmanović tells us, would have a particularly negative impact on women and certain groups that are already endangered, such as mothers with small children or more children, single mothers, young women first-time job seekers, women with disabilities, older women, Roma women and women without qualifications.

The important thing that Mirjana Dokmanović reminds us is that this law would significantly reduce the possibilities of organizing workers, since they would not be entitled to fair compensation, they would not be able to organize and bargain collectively, thus also lose the right to decent work and the right to eight working hours per day.

“From the point of view of the nature of this form of engagement, it means that occasional workers will be equal in disenfranchisement and exploitation of their work,” Dokmanović concludes.


Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić

This article was originally published in Serbian on March 19, 2021.


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