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Durham University

Durham Law: Policy Engagement

Violence and Harassment in the Care Economy

THE GLOBAL REGULATORY CHALLENGE: REGULATING VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT IN THE CARE ECONOMY



For unacceptable forms of work (UFW) to be eliminated, men and women must be free from mental and physical harm. Violence that takes place in the context of work and is based on gender is known as gender-based violence, or GBV.

Care work in the private home is one of the most concerning settings for GBV. In higher-income countries, GBV in the care economy is often associated with casualised employment in homecare. In lower-income settings, domestic work is often a highly signfiicant employer, especially of women.

States have obligations in international law to protect workers from gendered GBV. International standards include the International Labour Organization (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), and the ILO is currently debating international standards on Violence against Women and Men in the World of Work. In most countries, however, there is a lack of effective regulatory frameworks and inadequate compliance and enforcement.


PREVENTING VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT IN CARE WORK: A RESEARCH AGENDA

The Strategic Network on Legal Regulation of Unacceptable Forms of Work has designed a set of Research Agendas on combatting unacceptable work. The Research Agenda on Violence and Harassment in the Care Economy outlines a strategy to achieve progressive change in regulation to ensure both better care and decent working conditions.

The Research Agenda has been designed by a Strategic Network Team that includes researchers and policy actors from across the world:


AN ILLUSTRATION: AUSTRALIA, UK, ARGENTINA, MEXICO

Comparative research on regulatory frameworks is crucial to combat UFW. It can provide global lessons from innovations in different countries. For this reason, the Network Team on Violence and Harassment in the Care Economy suggests that future research should involve comparisons of countries at a range of income levels and in different regions

As an illustration, a comparison of home care regulation in the UK and Australia would be revaeling. Both countries have responded to growing elderly populations by develping markets in long-term care. GBC in care-settings has emerged as a significant cause of concern. In Australia, the Victorian government has developed a Gender Equality Strategy that focuses on workplace violence and the Australian government is developing a national Aged Care Workforce Strategy. In the UK, the Welsh government has consulted on proposals on working practices and care quality in social care and passed the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.

In the global South, laws have been reformed in Latin America in recent decades to regulate domestic work, incuding GBV. Argentina, for example, adopted a domestic workers law in 2013 (Law No. 26844) and established a National Commission of Private Home Employment in 2015. In Mexico, the regulatory framework on domestic work is less-developed, although the National Union of Domestic Workers (SINACTRAHO) was established in 2016.



A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

For further details, see our research agenda on violence and harassment in the care economy.

Key questions include:

  • how do employment laws treat workplaces that are also private homes?
  • how do employment laws privilege notions of a standard (and masculinised) employment relationship to the detriment of care workers and care recipients?
  • can a focus on GBC promote a broader understanding of the potential of regulatory tools e.g. OSH, equality laws, care quality regulations?
  • to what extent can policies on casualisation, low pay and insecurity eliminate the threat or fear of GBC?