Throughout the outbreak of the Coronavirus – Covid 19 in Switzerland information and concerns regarding the reality some domestic workers are now living has been brought to our attention. SNA would like to voice these concerns representing nannies, au pairs and housekeepers.
A group of volunteers from SNA has been interviewing domestic workers all across Switzerland about their working conditions. Nannies have talked to us about their fears and anxieties in the workplace.
They have also talked to us about infractions committed by their employers, like: being asked to keep on working with infected family members, crossing the border illegally, breaking a contract without notice or not wanting to pay.
At this moment in time four major issues have been observed:
1. Declared workers have no access to the RHT
Some families have decided to quarantine and ask their domestic staff to do the same and have communicated that this leave is to be considered as paid leave. However, this situation will be fine, for most, until April but is not sustainable after for a longer period of time. Some families or its members are losing their jobs. They would love to keep their domestic staff on board with them but cannot support their salary without work for an indeterminate time.
Switzerland ratified the ILO Convention where it is very clear that domestic workers have access to the same conditions as all other employees, though it is extremely clear that domestic workers rights have been forgotten throughout this pandemic.
It is unfair on employers that if they want to protect their family and their domestic staff nothing is facilitated for them and in actual fact the burden is on them.
The Swiss Nanny Association promotes legal employment advocating the fact that everybody has a right to legal employment and social protection. Families who legally employ domestic staff pay social insurance contributions, like all other employers for different lines of work. However, at this moment, and through the adversity of a pandemic, domestic staff are completely ignored and are not covered regarding any social benefits other professionals have access to.
“ One of my employers did a demand for RHT, but they told him I have no right to it because I am a domestic worker. Another employer believes that they don’t have to pay me at all because I am not working, this way I loose the majority of my income!”
2. No work, no pay
In the case of declared domestic staff the employer may decide that, due to the Covid 19, they don t want the employee to come into work but also decide that the employee will no longer be paid. We see that families twist this so it looks like the employee is refusing to work. In the case of non-declared domestic staff there is no work contract in place thus the employee is left with nothing but to fend for themselves. Within this second point and to add to the situation some domestic workers face:
Reduced work schedule equals reduced pay (both parents are at home).
Reduced working hours during the pandemic but these hours must be made up in the future (Banking hours).
Domestic workers are forced to take days off as holiday
“ I was kicked out of my Live in job without any time to find another place to live! I was called by the secretary of my boss to get my salary and he then announced that from that day I couldn’t live with them anymore” “ None of my employers are paying, not even the ones I have been working for over 10 years“
3. Working conditions – changes to contracts
To adapt to their needs many families are expecting much more of their domestic staff without regard to the fact that rules, contract and work agreement need to be respected.
Longer working schedules.
Cancelling planned holiday.
Live out employees are asked to live in.
Domestic workers are being fired by text messages without respecting the legal notice period.
“ My employers asked me to cross the border from France illegally, when I refused they told me I have to make up all the hours once the Pandemic is over”
4. Not respecting the workplace recommendations
It is important to mention that a domestic workers workplace is in a home setting but also needs to abide by rules and recommendations.
There is no clear communication or interpretation of whether a private residence is regulated by the workplace recommendations or not.
We believe it is not possible to obey to the required safety recommendations in our job, unless the family is totally aware of them and provides the necessary protection.
We often hear about employers organizing gatherings and/or asking their domestic staff to break the rules.
“ A family member that lives in the house I work is tested positive, they still ask me to come to work, if I don’t come to work they wont pay me but I am afraid to get infected”