Home work is defined by the International Labour Organisation in Convention 177 as work carried out by a person (i) in his or her home or in other premises of his or her choice, other than the workplace of the employer; (ii) for remuneration; (iii) which results in a product or service as specified by the employer, irrespective of who provides the equipment, materials or other inputs used, unless this person has the degree of autonomy and of economic independence necessary to be considered an independent worker under national laws, regulations or court decisions.
Protection for home workers is viewed as critical, given that home workers tend to be subject to poor conditions of work with low levels of social protection. Women are disproportionately represented in this category of workers, as home working is often used as a way of reconciling work and family life. This has implications for equal opportunities policy.
Home working covers a diverse range of occupational sectors, ranging from traditional craft-based industries (e.g. textiles) to information technology-based sectors. The ILO views home working as clearly distinct from telework: home workers are sometimes called ‘outworkers’ and are generally poorly paid and in insecure jobs or working on a piecework basis with no contract of employment. In contrast, a teleworker may be a manager, a senior professional or another relatively highly paid employee who finds it more convenient to work at or near home some of the time.
Convention 177 states that national policies on home work should promote, as far as possible, equality of treatment between homeworkers and other wage earners, taking into account the special characteristics of home work and, where appropriate, conditions applicable to the same or a similar type of work carried out in an enterprise. It states that equal treatment should be promoted in particular in relation to the following: the home workers' right to establish or join organisations of their own choosing and to participate in the activities of these organisations; protection against discrimination in employment and occupation; protection in the field of occupational safety and health; remuneration; statutory social security protection; access to training; minimum age for admission to employment or work; and maternity protection.
In the area of health and safety, the Convention states that national laws and regulations should apply to home work, taking account of its special characteristics, and should establish conditions under which certain types of work and the use of certain substances may be prohibited in home work for reasons of safety and health.
The Convention was adopted by the ILO Conference on 20 June 1996. To date, however, only 10 countries have ratified the Convention, of which five are EU Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands.
See also: Atypical work; casual worker; contract of employment; economically dependent worker; international labour standards; part-time work; seasonal work; self-employed person; undeclared work; work-life balance.