Platform for Labour Action (PLA)

Ensuring democracy and social justice in the world of work.

A Contract of Employment  is any agreement whether in writing or verbal, expressed or implied, whereby:

One person agrees to employ another as an employee; and

The other person agrees to serve the employer as an employee in return for remuneration/payment.

Is any person who has entered into a contract of employment or an apprenticeship contract except members of the Uganda peoples’ defence force.

The employer cannot change the terms and conditions of employment unless the employee agrees to it.

Important to note

  • It is a legal requirement in Uganda for the employer to provide an employment contract for each employee whom he or she employs.
  • The employment contract should clearly state the terms and conditions of employment such as duration of employment, place of work, hours of work, wages, termination, etc.
  • The employee should read the employment contract thoroughly before signing. In case an employee does not understand any particular aspect of the employment contract, legal guidance should be sought from the worker’s union or from any other legal expert. 

No, oral or written contracts of service apply equally and are enforceable under the law.

Therefore, the absence of a written contract of employment does not stop any party to enforce it or to fulfil their obligations. 

The only difference is in the means of proving the existence of both

The rights of workers stem from the constitution of Uganda 1995 – article 40 that provides for Economic Right and The Employment Act, 2006.

Any person or group of persons for whom an employee works or has worked or normally worked or sought to work under a contract of employment.

  • To report to work as per the rules and regulation of the workplace.
  • To do the work assigned to him/her by his employer. Only lawful assignment and engagements.
  • To keep secrets of the workplace or job
  • To respect the employer and fellow employees
  • Not to endanger the workplace
  • To follow the lawful rules and regulations of the workplace

Domestic work is one of the oldest occupations for women in world history. It has links to slavery and various forms of servitude, including colonialism. It is an unregulated and undervalued activity because, in most of the countries, labour laws are not applicable to the domestic workers.

In a new convention adopted by ILO in June 2011 (c189), domestic work is defined as the “work performed in or for a household or households”. Domestic work is different from the care work performed by members of a household as part of a family responsibility and without creating an employment relationship.

Domestic work includes (in a household or households)

  1. Cleaning
  2. Washing, ironing (clothes, dishes)
  3. Ironing
  4. Cooking (chef)
  5. Security guards (home)
  6. Gardening
  7. Driving (chauffeur)
  8. Childcare/Babysitting
  9. Eldercare
  10. Taking care of ill persons or persons with disabilities
  11. Taking care of animals/pets etc.
  12. Assistance in other household daily chores

A domestic worker is one who works in or for another person’s home. For a person to qualify as a domestic worker, he/she must be engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship. The term “employment relationship” excludes those persons from domestic work who;

  1. Perform their work only occasionally or sporadically (such as part-time babysitters)
  2. Perform the domestic work as a family responsibility (child care, elder care, etc.)

However, workers employed for the cleaning of public and private buildings and any other above-mentioned activities are not domestic workers as domestic work is a household work and is usually performed within the boundaries of a house.

Domestic workers can be broadly divided into two categories i.e., live-in and live-out domestic workers. Live-in domestic workers are those who reside in the house where they perform their work while live-out workers live outside their place of work. The other categories are full time, part time, child domestic workers, bonded/forced labour, and migrant workers including au pair. It is pertinent to mention that domestic labour, in Asia and Africa, exists also in the form of child labour and bonded/forced labour. Moreover, the au pair, initially a cultural exchange program for young people, is also a type of migrant domestic worker arrangement.

The new convention requires the provision of basic/fundamental rights to domestic workers on par with all other workers. Moreover, it requires that:

  1. Domestic workers are informed of their conditions of employment in an understandable manner through a written contract;
  2. Domestic workers are made to work only normal hours of work (for example, 48 hours a week in Pakistan and India) and other provisions like overtime compensation, periods of daily and weekly rest and annual paid leave are complied with;
  3. Minimum age and minimum wage regulations (as are the norm in a country) are complied with;
  4. Wages are to be paid in cash, however, only a limited portion of wages may be in kind.

For migrant domestic workers, the convention requires that a written contract must be signed and handed over to a worker before he/she crosses the national boundary. However, this provision is not applicable when people enjoy the freedom of movement through some bilateral or multilateral agreements. This provision is not applicable in the case of EU as well.

The Employment Act 2006 states that there is no permit requirement for one to recruit a domestic servant for employment. However, beyond this, there is no other specific provision in the constitution of Uganda or the labour laws regarding domestic workers in Uganda.

Although some people think that domestic work is uncomplicated, it still remains real work just like other jobs. The work can be physically and psychologically challenging. This type of work demands long hours, from preparing children to go to school in the morning to finish up when all others have gone to their beds. A domestic worker brings skills and experience into the home of her employer.

There is no fixed wage for a domestic worker. The wage usually depends on what the employer is willing to pay or what the domestic worker is willing to accept. 

In other words, an employer can set a very small payment for a domestic worker, since there is no legal obligation thereafter. When domestic workers enter the labour market, they usually don’t know what their rights are. The minimum wage in Uganda was set in 1984 and has not been revised since then.

Domestic workers in Uganda are mostly young girls, despite the constitutional rights of children in the legal framework; child domestic workers still exist in Uganda. Contributing factors to child domestic work include, socio-economic, political (civil strife), HIV/AIDS-related due to the death of parents, and institutional/policy-related factors, cultural influences where children are discriminated against, and employers’ preference for young workers with fewer demands compared to older workers. 

Domestic workers are not regulated in Uganda; however, in case there is a problem, just like any other employee, a domestic worker may report to the district labour officer who will call the employer to settle the matter. If the complaint is not resolved then the matter may be brought to the attention of the labour commissioner. Or can visit PLA offices.

In order to make it easier to get assistance in case of any problem, a domestic worker should have an employment contract.

All workers deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully at their place of work, with full labour rights and protections given to them. The law generally recognises a notice period. A domestic worker is entitled to notice in writing or a verbal notice for an illiterate worker. At least this should be explained to the domestic worker if he/she is not able to understand it in written form. 

The employment act has a very narrow mention of domestic workers where it states that there is no permit requirement for one to recruit a domestic servant for employment. While the employment act 2006 recognises “housemaids,” the irony is that the act does not recognise the category of workers known as “domestic workers” because homes are considered private premises and therefore cannot be inspected by labour officers to enforce the act.

That is the only provision in the law; the constitution of the Republic of Uganda does not have specific provision tackling the work done by domestic workers in Uganda.

In this case, employers should exhibit their utmost integrity to treat domestic workers as human beings. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that there is a fair and decent working environment for a domestic worker.

Given the fact that there is no minimum wage for domestic workers in Uganda, employers are responsible for setting a certain wage. This implies that the power to set a certain wage for a domestic worker depends on the bargaining power of the worker. The minimum wage in Uganda was set in 1984 and has not been revised since then. Domestic workers are usually paid between shs4,000 (US$ 1.78) and shs10,000 (US$ 4.44) per month. From these figures it is clear that the current situation suggests that these workers are being exploited. As an employer you are not meant to exploit domestic workers. Therefore, a reasonable wage should be agreed at the start to avoid cases of exploitation.

Domestic workers in Uganda are mostly girls the age of 16 and above who are hired to do domestic chores in a home. They are commonly referred to as “housemaids” or “house girls”. On rare occasions old women and “house boys” are also involved in offering this kind of labour. Other categories include drivers and other workers in farms and gardens.

Since domestic workers are not regulated in Uganda, they quite often get exposed to uncontrolled, hazardous and exploitative work harmful to their health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. Nonetheless, like other workers, a domestic employee is entitled to report suspected wrongdoing to the district labour officer who will attempt to solve the matter with the employee and employer. In the case of failure, the matter can be taken to the labour commissioner.


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