The Legal Regulation of Working Time in Domestic Work

International Labour Office Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 27

60 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2011

See all articles by Deirdre McCann

Deirdre McCann

Durham University - Law School

Jill Murray

La Trobe Law School

Date Written: September 9, 2010


Domestic work is the subject of an International Labour Organization (ILO) standard-setting exercise that is expected to generate an international Convention in June 2011. As a contribution to that process, this study addresses the working time dimensions of domestic work. Across the globe, domestic workers are subject to excessive and unpredictable working hours; yet labour law regimes have inadequately addressed their predicament. This study contends that the problem of regulating domestic workers’ hours can be situated within the contemporary debates on the regulation of working time. Drawing on this literature, it identifies the working time schedules that legal measures should address, elaborates a conceptual framework for legal regulation, and articulates a set of principles to underpin regulatory frameworks. The study demonstrates that the international standards on working time have progressively expanded in the scope of their application since the origins of the ILO in 1919. It argues that the adoption of international-level working time norms for domestic workers would reflect and entrench this expansion, to embrace an informal and predominantly female workforce. Drawing on the international working time standards and national models, including the South African Sectoral Determination 7 and Uruguayan Act No 18.065, the study proposes a set of regulatory techniques, which are outlined in a Model Law. This Model introduces a “framed flexibility” approach, which is based on the needs and vulnerabilities of domestic workers and the nature of the demand for their labour. It is intended to contribute to the debates on effective frameworks for the regulation of domestic work.

Keywords: decent work, domestic work, informal economy, international labor law, International Labour Organization, international labour standards, working time law

JEL Classification: J22, K31, K33, O17, O19

Suggested Citation

McCann, Deirdre and Murray, Jillian G., The Legal Regulation of Working Time in Domestic Work (September 9, 2010). International Labour Office Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 27, Available at SSRN:

Deirdre McCann (Contact Author)

Durham University - Law School ( email )

50 North Bailey
Palatine Centre
Durham, County Durham DH1 3ET
United Kingdom

Jillian G. Murray

La Trobe Law School ( email )

La Trobe University
Bundoora, VIC 3083 3142

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