As many employees head to an office, construction site, or business for a day’s work, a large portion of the American working class earn their keep working somewhere completely different: in the privacy of someone else’s home.
With this unique work environment comes an array of challenges for both employees and their employers; due to the informality of the workplace, employers don’t often create a formal working contract, leaving their employees with little to no control over working conditions.
A nationwide survey from the National Domestic Workers Alliance showed that nannies, home care aides, housekeepers, and other domestic workers often face very low wages, rarely receive employment benefits, and often endure verbal, psychological, and physical abuse on the job. In turn, many workers cannot adequately meet the needs of themselves and their families.
“When fair labor standards were passed, domestic workers and farmers were left out, having to work under an isolated and unprotected industry,” says Illana Berger, interim director of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network. “In general, domestic workers have really been at the mercy of their employers for a long time.”
One national initiative, however, is working to change that.
By providing three basic guidelines to employers, the Fair Care Pledge hopes to transform the world of domestic work from a grey area fraught with low wages and little to no worker benefits to one that matches that of what most traditional employees receive.
A voluntary pledge by Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Fair Care Pledge is not a binding legal agreement, but a decision to follow guidelines that make for a better work environment for domestic workers in their employer’s homes.
“The only thing someone needs to take the pledge is an interest in living up to the values that it represents,” says Fair Care Pledge Manager Carolyn Silveira. “It serves as a checklist on how to make your home a good workplace.”
Key components of the pledge include agreement to offer fair pay, clear expectations, and paid time off to affirm employers will do their best to be fair and respectful when hiring someone to work in their home. It also encourages employers to amend existing policies they may have or create new standards if they don’t have a formal work agreement in writing.
Each of the pledge’s three main pillars provide tools to help employers establish fair work standards for their employee, including a living wage calculator, a guide on how to effectively create and implement a work agreement, and tips on providing paid time off (sick time, national holidays, and vacation time).
Launched last year, the Pledge has found a leading partner in Care.com, the nation’s largest online marketplace for domestic jobs. The pledge was sent to 1 million Care.com users last June to introduce them to the initative and provide families with the tools and resources needed to meet the guidelines. Since the Pledge’s inception, over 200,000 people across the nation have signed up.
Palak Shah, social innovations director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, says the work of domestic employees—the housekeepers, nannies, home attendants, pet sitters, babysitters, and more—complete the work that “makes all other work possible,” so most employers are very interested in doing right by those they hire.
“The relationship between a domestic worker and their employer is so focused on what’s precious to us: our children, our aging parents, and our home,” Shah says. “We’ve found that most are invested in this being a healthy and respectful relationship, so the Pledge provides really simple and clear guidance on how to get there.”
For more information, visit faircarepledge.com.