In Thailand, as with most middle income countries, it is not uncommon for middle class families to have a housekeeper to wash clothes, clean the house, and look after children. Some of the housekeepers come in the morning and leave in the evening. For upper middle class families and above, these families routinely own a home or a condo with a small living space for a live in housekeeper. While there have been news exposes on some families who have abused their live in housekeepers, these are rare occurrences.
However, live-in housekeepers are in a situation where they can be forced to work long hours without the right to overtime. The live-in housekeepers are generally uneducated women who come to earn money to send back to their families. With housing, basic necessities, and food provided by their employers, the housekeepers have the ability to save most of their earnings for their families.
The vast majority of housekeepers in Thailand are Thai women from the poorer areas of Thailand but a growing number of housekeepers are foreign migrants. As education expands and professional opportunities grows, Thai women are looking at other professions to earn income. There are currently between 200,000 – 300,000 migrants working as housekeepers in Thailand. As a result of their precarious situation, the Thai government has issued specific regulations to protect both poor Thai and migrant live-in housekeepers.
Ministerial Regulation No. 14, B.E. 2555 under the Thai Labor Protection Act makes most of the Labor Protection Act applicable to domestic workers except for the minimum wage rules and maximum working hours per day.
- Domestic Workers now have a right to one day a week off
- Domestic Workers have a right to annual leave which are the traditional 13 annual holidays plus a minimum of 6 personal holidays (after one year of employment).
- Domestic Workers have a right of up to 30 days of paid sick leave per year.
- Employers must pay Domestic Workers directly and not through third parties or “job brokers.”
Employers who fail to provide leave or pay their domestic workers according to ministerial regulations face a penalty of six months in jail and/or a fine of up to 100,000 baht. The effectiveness of these regulations depend on domestic workers reporting violations and the government enforcing their regulations.
However in this period of growing upward mobility of Thai women, the demand for domestic workers to take care of homes or children grows. Minimum legal requirements are generally not enough to retain the employment of live-in housekeepers. Social interaction between domestic employees allow the interchange of knowledge and assistance in finding new employment in case of abusive employers. Without resorting to the law, the employer and housekeeper should each understand the needs and expectation of each party to ensure a positive work environment. This will create a long term and stable relationship.