'Am I Free Now?' Overseas Domestic Workers in Slavery

(2015) 42 Journal of Law and Society 329

24 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2017

See all articles by Virginia Mantouvalou

Virginia Mantouvalou

University College London - Faculty of Laws

Date Written: October 17, 2015


This article examines the United Kingdom’s overseas domestic worker and diplomatic domestic worker visas in place since 2012. These visas tie workers to an employer by making it unlawful for them to change employer, even if they have been seriously exploited or abused. The article presents the findings of a qualitative study, a series of semi-structured interviews of overseas domestic workers. It explores how this vulnerable and difficult (for researchers) to reach group of workers experience these visas in practice. The workers reported instances of exploitation and abuse by the employers with whom they arrived in the UK. Having escaped abusive employers they have become undocumented, and report being trapped in ongoing cycles of exploitation. The article assesses what light this empirical exploration sheds on the question whether the visa is contrary to the prohibition of slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour in article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Keywords: domestic labour, human rights, workers' rights, overseas domestic workers, modern slavery

Suggested Citation

Mantouvalou, Virginia, 'Am I Free Now?' Overseas Domestic Workers in Slavery (October 17, 2015). (2015) 42 Journal of Law and Society 329, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3054710

Virginia Mantouvalou (Contact Author)

University College London - Faculty of Laws ( email )

Bentham House
4-8 Endsleigh Gardens
London, WC1E OEG
United Kingdom

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