“So when do you take holiday?”
“Holiday? What holiday?” said Uma, my house help.
“I mean weekly off.”
“I don’t take one,” she gave a blank reaction.
It was strange for me to explain to her the concept of weekly off. She told me she has been working all days of the month with no leaves from any employer for all these years. She is 53 years old and has been working as a house help for over 8 years.
“You can take off on Sundays,” I said to her, still confused thinking about how can anyone work like that.
She smiled feeling obliged as if I am giving her something special, which was normal according to me.
This made me curious about how other employers behave in that way. On Monday morning, I asked her what her other employers do? Most of them were working in the IT industry. A person working in an industry that gives you two days off in a week does not give their employee even a day off!
I wanted to understand how an educated person can have that kind of mindset. I discussed it with my friends and watched numerous documentaries about domestic workers. I could gather three major reasons for such an attitude.
Sadly, the origin of such behaviour lies in casteism and social inequality. People lose empathy for domestic workers. This is an example of slavery, new age slavery.
There is an extreme dependency on house help. Even one day off for house help sounds like earth-shattering in many households. Let’s take a simple example, in a common household where house help is helping to wash utensils. All members of the family just stop washing any utensils. One day off to house help means a lot of extra work to house members, more often to the woman member of the family. Slowly people chose to be less empathetic and stop giving leaves.
Domestic help is only a help, all house members should still know to manage all housework on their own. In case they can manage it financially then they should plan for another help for off days.
The government does not have proper regulations for the treatment of domestic workers. There are no guidelines around leave policies, compensation, and facilities to be given to them. Employers take advantage of this as they are not answerable to anyone. Stringent laws are a must to help these workers.
But can legislation change the human mindset? Can it make a better human? Please don’t forget to be mindful of your ethics when you are an employer.