Domestic Workers Pave the Way for the Future of Work With Groundbreaking Bill of Rights in Philadelphia Win

By Nidya Sarria-King of National Domestic Workers Alliance | Originally Published November 1, 2019

The National Domestic Workers Alliance celebrates the unanimous passing of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights by the Philadelphia City Council. Philadelphia is currently the largest city in the country that has expanded domestic worker rights and is the first to mandate portable paid time off. Read on to find out more and why this Bill of Rights is considered one of the strongest pieces of legislation for domestic workers in the country.

Philadelphia — The Philadelphia City Council has unanimously voted to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, addressing inequities for more than 16,000 domestic workers in the city and raising standards for the industry as a whole. The city of Philadelphia is now the largest city in the country to extend rights to domestic workers, who are predominantly women, women of color, and immigrants and the first city to establish a portable paid time off system in the United States.

As a result of the passage of the bill, domestic workers will be covered by anti-discrimination laws in Philadelphia for the first time. This legislation will give them new legal rights, including portable paid time off, in which domestic workers will aggregate accrued paid time off from multiple employers at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked. Workers will also receive new workplace rights such as meal and rest breaks, written agreements, notice of termination, and other protections.


What does it do?

The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights ensures nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers get the basic rights and benefits every worker needs. It ends the exclusion of this workforce from basic labor rights, provides important new rights and protections, and establishes a new portable paid time off benefit system. Access a summary of the Bill of Rights here.

What’s the big deal?

The Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is the first law that mandates portable paid time off in the country. Because many domestic workers have multiple clients, they have not been able to access paid time off or other benefits. Now with the Bill of Rights, domestic workers in Philadelphia will have a pro-rated, portable paid time off benefit system that accommodates the nature of their work. Pro-rated means a client or employer or hiring entity will be required to contribute commensurate to the hours worked. Portability means that a domestic worker’s paid time off is aggregated across multiple clients. As work changes and more and more people are working outside the traditional 9-5 employment structure and for multiple employers, domestic workers are paving the way for a future where workers can have access to paid time off and other benefits regardless of their work arrangements.

How did we get here?

Nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers with the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance have been organizing for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights for more than a year. The bill of rights was supported by over 50 endorsing unions, community groups, and legal advocacy organizations. Its provisions, including a portable time-off system, make it one of the strongest pieces of legislation for domestic workers in the country. The bill was introduced on June 20, 2019 by Councilmember Maria Quinones Sanchez and is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Bass, Blackwell, Greenlee, Gym, Parker, Reynolds Brown, and Squilla. The bill passed unanimously out of the Committee on Law and Government on October 22, 2019 and then was unanimously passed by the Philadelphia City Council on October 31, 2019.


“The Bill of Rights is important because when you miss one day of work, you still have to pay the bills. None of us have had paid time off even after so many years of working,” said Maria del Carmen, a domestic worker leader. “I am deeply excited because I have 25 different clients. With the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, I can accumulate time through the portable benefits system so I can take the time off that I need to rest and recharge.”

“Every worker deserves dignity at work and basic protections such as a written contract and paid time off. We provide those to our nanny and deeply value the care she provides to our daughter. But domestic workers should not have to rely on the good intentions of their employers in order to have their work respected and their rights protected,” said Elena Baurer, employer of a nanny and house cleaner as well as leader with Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employer’s Network. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this historic moment in Philadelphia where we have just become the largest city in the country to ensure domestic workers have access to the rights and benefits they deserve.”

“Philadelphia domestic workers like myself are celebrating this historic day as we pass one of the strongest laws in the country protecting us at work. What we are asking for is the right to work in an environment that recognizes the important contributions domestic workers make every day in our city, and we need this law now more than ever,” said Annie Johnson, nanny and PA Domestic Workers Alliance leader. “A written contract is important because, without it, I can be asked to perform duties that I was not hired to do and refusing can be a reason for termination. Paid time off is critical because we should be able to visit the doctor, take a sick day, attend a child’s graduation or a family member’s funeral without fear of losing a day’s pay.”

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is the leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States, majority of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA is powered by over 60 affiliate organizations and local chapters and by a growing membership base of nannies, house cleaners and care workers in over 20 states. Learn more about the domestic workers movement on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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