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Directive issued to protect domestic workers

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
Labour Minister Ith Samheng signed the directive on Tuesday. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Labour Ministry has issued a directive laying out expected working conditions for domestic workers to protect their safety and prevent abuse from homeowners in the wake of a woman being arrested for torturing her maid.

According to a five-page directive signed on Tuesday by Labour Minister Ith Samheng, domestic workers must be over the age of 18, and if they are younger, can only be assigned light work duties.

“Domestic workers must be 18-years-old or older, and for those under 18, they can work as maids but only for light duty work that carries no risk of accidents or injury,” Mr Samheng said.

Mr Samheng said that the homeowners have to permit maids to have Sunday as a day off, or another day as long as it is one day per week.

“Domestic workers must also be given national holidays off in accordance with the Labour Law and this directive, and if they work, they must be paid 200 percent of their normal working day wage,” he added.

Mr Samheng also noted that forced labour and debt bondage is prohibited.

The directive came after Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed for all homeowners to treat their housemaids better earlier this month, after which homeowner Meng Rath Pisey in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district was arrested after neighbours reported that she abused her underage maid.

“Homeowners have to responsible for all occupational accidents and social safety which is stated in Cambodian law and any regulations which are enjoyed by garment workers,” Mr Samheng added.

Mr Samheng also said that the maids should be paid their wages bi-weekly and that homeowners must provide accommodation, food and health treatment free of charge for their maids if they are hired to live with the family.

“For homeowners who are foreigners living in Cambodia and have Cambodian maids, they also have to follow this directive and all other regulations,” Mr Samheng said.

Von Samphous, president of the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network, welcomed the ministry’s directive, which she has been waiting to see for many years.

“We have been waiting to see such a directive for years now and finally it has come out,” she said. “We would like to thank the Labour Ministry for this directive.”

Ms Samphous said that she would now keep an eye on the development of the sector to see if the directive is heeded.

“We are keeping eyes on the situation to see if the ministry ensures the directive is followed,” she said. But I think homeowners will know about this directive and they will respect it.”

Ms Samphous added that if any future problems arise for maids, she can now use this directive as a reference to fight for the rights of workers.

Currently, there are about 250,000 domestic workers in the country, according to Ms Samphous.

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