Domestic exploitation involves the victim being forced to work in private households. Their movement will be restricted and they will be forced to perform household tasks such as child care and house-keeping over long hours and for little or no pay. Victims will lead very isolated lives and have little or no unsupervised freedom. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor in an open part of the house.
Domestic workers perform a range of tasks in private homes including: cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of children and the elderly and running errands. Some domestic workers also live in their employers’ homes and are often considered ‘on call’ to undertake work for their employer 24 hours a day. They may not be paid all or only all or only receive ‘payment in kind’ such as food or accommodation.
Some domestic workers experience slavery due to the circumstances and conditions of their work. This happens when employers don’t pay domestic workers their wages, use violence or threats, stop them from leaving the house, withhold their identity documents, limit their contact with family and force them to work.
Some domestic workers are migrant workers from other countries or regions, mainly from rural areas to the city. For many, domestic work is one of the very few options available to enable them to provide for themselves and their families. Within some cultures, domestic workers are not considered ‘workers’ but rather as informal ‘help’ and therefore their rights are wrongly viewed as being excluded from national labour regulations.
Within the UK in 2018, the countries of origin of victims most likely to experience domestic servitude include Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Within the UK in 2018, 515 people were potential victims of Modern Slavery. 96 minors were potentially identified as victims of Domestic Servitude.
Spot the Signs of Domestic Exploitation
Living with and working for a family in a private home or place of accommodation
Not eating with the rest of the family or being given only leftovers, or inadequate food
No private sleeping place or sleeping in shared space for example the living room
No private space
Forced to work in excess of normal working hours or being ‘on-call’ 24 hours per day
Employer reports them as a missing person
Employer accuses person of theft or other crime related to the escape
Never leaving the house without permission from the employer
Modern Slavery: A Council Guide, pp51
A Church Minister in Shoeburyness, Essex, first met Izna at his church. He writes, 'Izna became a regular attender at our Sunday morning worship services. Izna was shy, she was nervous, and she was scared. The family she was working for would drop her off at the door and collect her exactly one hour after the service started; she was permitted to attend worship but not to engage with the other worshippers.
In our brief conversations it became clear that Izna was not paid properly for her work but she was unable to leave because the family she worked for had bought a small house for her family in India so that she would have to stay and work off the debt. Her husband is disabled and unable to work. Her children remained in India. The amount being removed from the debt it was claimed she owed the family was very small. It would have taken her many decades to pay off something that would have taken a short stay to do had she been paid at the UK minimum wage.
Izna was not allowed out of the house without permission. She thought she was located in London rather than Essex. The two sons in the house ridiculed her and dismissed her. The parents, both working in professional jobs showed little concern for Izna’s welfare. For over two years Izna pleaded with them that she could return home. Eventually they permitted her to do so. Izna could never walk out because her family in India would then be homeless. She could not speak out because the family denied her the opportunity, and they were well respected members of the local community.
It was a shock to those of us in the church who came to know Izna over her time with us that this situation was happening yards from our own homes. We have not heard from Izna since her return to India, but we pray that she is well and that she has been able to find good employment in or near her own family’.