Bill seeking the protections of domestic workers, employers passes second reading


The Senate, on Wednesday, fast-tracked to provide for proper documentation and protection of domestic workers and their employers in the country.

It will serve several purposes, including keeping full records of the identities of domestic workers, respecting their fundamental human rights, and providing provisions for the safety of employers.

The bill with the title “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Documentation and Protection of Domestic Workers and Employers and for Other Matters Connected Therewith, 2024” passed a second reading on the floor of the Red Chamber in Abuja on Wednesday.

It was sponsored by Sen. Hussaini Babangida-Uba (Jigawa North-West), who told his colleagues the bill would safeguard the interests of both the domestic worker and the employer by addressing recurring abuses and tragedies, such as home workers killing their employers and disappearing with their valuables.

In Nigeria, the absence of defined processes for recruiting domestic workers has led to such workers facing mistreatment and abuse, and in many reported instances, tension between the parties resulting in the house has led them to resort to criminality, including murder.

The Nigeria Police Force frequently warns Nigerians against indiscriminate recruitment of domestic workers in a bid to cut down on the number of ugly incidents involving the workers and their employers.

Babangida-Uba, while leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, said most domestic workers in the country were either unregistered or not engaged in compliance with labour laws.

He also noted that the country did not have a codified set of laws to cater for various cadres of domestic workers, some of whom were non-Nigerians.

“The bill seeks to protect both domestic workers and their employers.

“It will reduce and deter domestic workers from conniving with criminal elements to do harm to their employers. Both parties can have proper access to justice,” he added.

In his contribution, Sen. Sani Musa observed that in the United Kingdom, for example, the law did not permit the recruitment of a domestic worker without following a laid-down procedure.

“In the UK, you don’t just bring in anybody to serve as a domestic worker. In Nigeria, their fundamental rights are always abused,” he said.

Sen. Adams Oshiomhole expanded the argument further, saying that domestic workers suffered abuses like rape, harassment, and murder, adding that most cases went unreported.

On the other hand, Oshiomhole observed that employers too faced the risk of becoming victims of criminal plots hatched by such house help.

“Some of us employ security guards that we don’t even know where they come from, and sometimes it doesn’t end well,” he stated.

The former labour leader raised the issue of appropriate remuneration for such workers, saying the practice of paying them slavery salaries should be regulated.

Immediate past Minister of Labour and Employment and Productivity, Sen. Simon Lalong, described the bill as timely, recalling how a recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) forum held in Geneva focused on the right to a decent job and the right to participate in strikes by workers.

Lalong narrated a story of how a domestic worker was well-treated by the employer and educated up to the university level, where he graduated with a first-class degree.

He disclosed that the worker performed better than the children of the employer while in school, got a better job upon graduation, and later became the breadwinner of the family.

“We all need domestic workers, but we also neglect them. We feel that our children are better than them, which is part of the problem,” he told the session.

The President of the Senate, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, who presided over the plenary while rounding off the debate, however, disapproved of the establishment of a commission by the bill to regulate the recruitment, documentation, and protection of the rights of domestic workers and their employers.

Akpabio recommended that a department in the Ministry of Labour and Employment be saddled with that responsibility.

The bill received unanimous enforcement by senators and was referred to the Committee on Labour and Productivity.