Domestic workers could leave black economy with ‘service cheques’

Around 400,000 household workers could be taken out of the black economy if the Netherlands introduced ‘service cheques’, similar to the system used in Belgium and France, the Volkskrant reports on Tuesday.

The suggestion comes from trade union FNV and cleaning sector organisation OSB and aims to ensure domestic workers get paid properly and pay tax.

‘Service cheques’ would be bought from cleaning firms by people using home helps for €12.50 each and given to workers at the rate of one for each hour worked. The cheques would be handed in to the cleaning firm which would add a government subsidy of €7.50 to each cheque to cover the worker for tax, social premiums and insurance.

Costs

Introducing the new system would cost the government between €300m and €800m a year, but would ensure domestic workers are covered for pensions, unemployment and illness, the union and OSB say.

The FNV and OSB are presenting their idea on Tuesday to the Kalsbeek commission, set up by social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher to look at the issue of improving the working conditions in the sector.

Currently, many households hire home helps and pay them cash in hand. It is up to the home help to declare any earnings, and most do not do so.

The Netherlands has been under fire internationally since the International Labour Organisation introduced a treaty to protect domestic workers in 2011. The Netherlands has signed but not ratified the treaty which states there should be be no difference between domestic workers and other workers.