Domestic workers to get equal rights in Brazil

image captionOdilea Jose Antunes belonged to a generation of domestic maids with little rights

The Brazilian Senate has brought in a new law giving domestic servants the same rights as other workers for the first time.

An estimated 7m house maids and cooks – nearly all of them women – will be entitled to overtime after working for a maximum of eight hours a day and 44 hours a week, among other rights.

The constitutional amendment is set to be enacted next week.

The reform could increase the cost of having a domestic worker by nearly 20%.

Many middle-class Brazilian families have been used to having a maid to cook, clean and wash for them.

In recent years, their rights have been gradually revised to include paid holidays, sick leave and maternity leave.

'End of slaveship'

The new rights have been called historic and widely welcomed in Brazil.

"It's the second abolition of slavery. We have house maids who work 18 hours a day," the head of the Sao Paulo's Domestic Workers and House Maid's union, Eliana Menezes, told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

"They are subjected to their employers' rules in their homes."

The equal rights trend has led to rising costs that are making employing a servant an unaffordable luxury for some.

The new law is set to make them even more expensive.

On social media, many Brazilians reacted to the news saying that the country's middle classes would have to learn how to live without house maids, as has already happened in many developed countries.

Others speculated that the enhanced legal rights would lead to a rise in unemployment.

The new bill ensures that, like other employees, domestic workers will build up a fund of money paid by their employers, equivalent to 8% of monthly pay, to be made available upon compulsory redundancy, death and other contingencies.

Estimates say the cost of having a domestic worker could rise by between 18% and 40%, depending on their working arrangements.

The amendment was passed unanimously in two votes of the Senate, after being approved by the lower house as well.

The law comes into force on 2 April.

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