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Making decent working conditions a reality for domestic workers

Making decent working conditions a reality for domestic workers

The International Labour Office (ILO) Convention No 189 on decent work for domestic workers lays down minimum global standards to curb the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers and requires signatories to ensure these workers have fair and decent working conditions.


Council Decision 2014/51/EU of 28 January 2014 authorising Member States to ratify, in the interests of the European Union, the Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers, 2011, of the International Labour Organisation (Convention No 189).


The European Union agreed in early 2014 a decision authorising EU countries to ratify the ILO’s convention of 2011 concerning decent work for domestic workers (Convention No 189). This decision is needed because parts of the convention fall within the EU’s competence. The EU itself cannot ratify any ILO convention, because only states can be parties to them.


A domestic worker is defined as any person engaged in domestic work (work performed in or for a household or households) within an employment relationship.

Main provisions

The convention requires ratifying states to:

  • establish a minimum age for domestic work and safeguards for workers under age 18;
  • prevent abuse and violence;
  • ensure fair terms and decent conditions of employment;
  • make certain that workers are informed of the terms and details of their employment;
  • regulate foreign recruitment and ensure freedom of movement;
  • mandate equal treatment between domestic workers and other workers with regard to compensation and benefits, for example in the case of maternity; and
  • develop a specific complaints mechanism.

Similar approaches of the ILO and EU

EU law already addresses some aspects covered by the ILO convention. The provisions of the convention share the same approach as this legislation. On certain issues, EU law is more protective than the convention whereas the convention is more precise than EU law in the coverage of domestic workers by legislation and in other particular aspects of domestic work.


In June 2012, in its EU strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings, the Commission urged Member States to ratify all relevant international instruments, agreements and legal obligations which will contribute to addressing trafficking in human beings in a more effective, coordinated and coherent manner, including the domestic workers convention.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Council Decision 2014/51/EU



OJ L 32 of 1.2.2014.


C189 - Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No 189): Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers

Last updated: 07.07.2014