H.E. Abdeslam Seddiki
Minister of Employment and Professional Development
Kingdom of Morocco
Avenue Mohamed Bel Hassan El Ouazzani
Hay Ennahda II, Takadoum B. P 5015
Please allow me first to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Employment and Professional Development and wish you success in your endeavors.
We write to you regarding legal protections for domestic workers in Morocco, and specifically, the draft law that the government has approved and submitted to parliament, and the need to revise it so that it complies with international standards.
Last year, Human Rights Watch published a report regarding working conditions for child domestic workers in Morocco. We found that although Morocco has made significant progress in reducing overall rates of child labor, child domestic workers continue to work at young ages in violation of Moroccan law, and they are subject to exploitation and abuse. In addition, domestic workers above the minimum age of employment (15) are excluded from basic protections under Morocco’s Labor Code.
Human Rights Watch appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Ministry of Labor and with His Excellency Minister Abdelouahed Souhail regarding our findings and the steps that Morocco can take to better protect both child and adult domestic workers. We were pleased to learn of the Moroccan government’s intent to extend basic labor rights to domestic workers through the passage of a new domestic worker law that is currently pending in parliament. We have also met with members of Parliament, including Ms. Nouzha Skalli, to discuss how the draft law could be brought up to the standards set by the International Labour Organization Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which was adopted in 2011.
As you are aware, ILO Convention 189 is the first comprehensive legal instrument that sets minimum standards for the treatment of domestic workers. It entered into force on September 5, 2013, and to date 10 countries have ratified it. Additional countries have undertaken national legislative reforms to bring their laws and practices into compliance with the new convention. In total, 25 countries have improved legal protections for domestic workers in the two years since its adoption.
We have closely studied your government’s draft domestic worker law and discussed it with Moroccan officials, through the Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights, the ILO office in Rabat, members of parliament and NGOs working on the defense of domestic workers, women, and children. Although the draft law contains important protections for domestic workers, we regret that it falls short of meeting the international standards set by Convention 189.
We have a number of suggestions on how the draft law can be brought into line with Convention 189, in particular with regards to employment contracts, days of rest and paid leave, minimum wage, violations, hours of work, and social security. These are outlined in detail in the attached document.
Dear Sir, as you undertake your new responsibilities as minister of employment and professional development, we urge you to ensure that the draft law currently under consideration meets international standards. We also urge the Kingdom of Morocco to take the further step of becoming the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to ratify Convention 189.
We remain, as always, available for sharing our views and knowledge in a way that can help put Morocco in a leading position in the region on the issue of domestic workers and their protection.
Advocacy and Communications Director
Middle East and North Africa division
Human Rights Watch Comments on Morocco’s Draft Domestic Worker Law
Human Rights Watch supports the government of Morocco’s commitment to strengthen legal protections of domestic workers and take measures to protect them from exploitation and abuse. A comprehensive domestic worker law can significantly improve working conditions not only for adult domestic workers, but also for children between ages 15 and 18 who are above the minimum age of employment.
We welcome key provisions of the draft domestic worker law, including the following:
- The requirement for an employment contract to be deposited with the labor inspection office;
- The prohibition on recruitment of domestic workers by unlicensed intermediaries;
- The clear prohibition on domestic work before age 15 and requirement for the permission of a guardian for the employment of children between the ages of 15 and 18;
- The prohibition on tasks that will jeopardize the safety, exceed the capacity, or compromise the morals of a domestic worker;
- A weekly day off of at least 24 hours;
- Paid annual leave, paid religious and national holidays, and paid leave for significant family events;
- A minimum wage equivalent to the formal sector for domestic workers who do not live with their employer;
- Dismissal compensation;
- Monetary penalties for employers who hire underage workers, fail to sign a contract, fail to obtain guardian permission for employing children between 15 and 18, or fail to observe other specified provisions of the law;
- The use of appropriate terminology (“domestic worker” rather than “house servant”).
These provisions extend the rights of domestic workers under Moroccan law and will help to improve the working conditions for many women and girls.
While Human Rights Watch supports many aspects of the draft law approved by the government and presented to parliament, we remain concerned that the law does not yet meet the standards set by the ILO Convention 189 Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers (Domestic Workers Convention).
We urge additional revisions to the draft law to bring it into line with the Convention. In particular:
Hours of work: Article 10 of Convention 189 states that domestic workers should receive equal treatment in relation to other workers in regards to normal hours of work and overtime compensation. The draft law makes no reference to either, although the Moroccan Labor Code specifies 44 hours per week as the limit for workers in the formal sector. In our research, we have found that excessive work hours are one of the most common abuses that domestic workers face. A specific provision setting maximum hours of work will help protect domestic workers from exploitation.
Employment contract:Article 3 specifies that employment should be based on a sample contract made by regulatory text, but does not specify the terms and conditions to be specified in the contract. We would welcome a copy of the available regulatory text, and urge that the sample contract address the terms and conditions specified in article 7 of the Domestic Workers Convention, which includes the type of work to be performed, the remuneration, normal hours of work, paid annual leave, and daily and weekly rest periods, and provision of food and accommodation, if applicable.
Days of rest and paid leave:We are concerned that article 7 states that a domestic worker’s weekly day of rest can be accumulated for up to two months. Although not binding, paragraph 11 (3) of Recommendation 201 accompanying the Domestic Workers Convention states that weekly rest days should not be carried over for more than 14 days. Although the text of article 7 of the draft domestic worker law specifies that such accumulation can be agreed between the domestic worker and the employer, the inherent power imbalance between the two parties means that many domestic workers will not feel able to refuse such a request.
Minimum Wage and In-Kind Payments: We remain concerned that article 11 continues to allow for a wage significantly lower than the prevailing minimum wage for domestic workers that live with their employer. Although the new draft text has raised the relevant minimum wage from at least 50 percent of the minimum wage in the formal sector to 60 percent, we have evidence that in many cases, 40 percent of the minimum wage is likely to exceed the value of accommodation and food provided to live-in domestic workers. For example, former child domestic workers interviewed for our report said they received little food and slept in a closet or on the kitchen floor. The lodging provided to live-in domestic workers is rarely comparable to independent, outside lodging in terms of privacy, the amount of available space, freedom to dispose of the space, etc. As we point out in our report, ILO Recommendation 201 specifies that the limits on in-kind payments should allow a salary necessary for the maintenance of domestic workers and their families. Sixty percent of the current minimum wage would be only 1400 dirham a month.
Violations and disputes:The procedures outlined in article 13 of the draft law in the event of complaints filed by domestic workers are very weak and vague. They state that if a labor inspector fails to reach an agreement between the domestic worker and employer, the inspector may file a report with the general prosecutor. However, it does not specify how penalties will be imposed in the case of violations. Article 17 of the Domestic Worker Convention stipulates that states should establish effective complaints mechanisms and measures to enforcement and penalties.
Although we are eager to see a domestic worker law adopted, we urge you to ensure revisions before presenting it to parliament to ensure that the law is consistent with the new Domestic Workers Convention. This will ensure that Morocco’s efforts to extend labor rights to domestic workers are in line with global standards, and will also pave the way to Morocco’s ratification of this groundbreaking treaty.
In addition to considering the points raised above, we encourage your ministry to consult with the International Labour Organization and seek their technical assistance in relation to the draft law.