EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life


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Homeworking is a form of work away from the factory or office in which the employment status of the worker, as an employee or a self-employed person, is sometimes uncertain. Homeworking covers a diverse range of occupational sectors, ranging from traditional craft-based industries (e.g. textiles) to modern information technology-based sectors. The International Labour Office (ILO) uses the term ‘traditional homeworkers’ to denote people working at home on tasks like knitting or stuffing envelopes etc. and sees this as clearly distinct from ‘telework’. These kind of traditional homeworkers are sometimes called ‘outworkers’ and generally are low paid and in insecure jobs or working on a piece work basis with no contract of employment. In contrast, a teleworker may be a manager, a senior professional or another very highly paid and highly valued employee who finds it more convenient to work at or near home some of the time.

Homeworkers tend to be characterised as working under poor conditions of work with low levels of social protection. Women are disproportionately represented in this category of workers, as homeworking is part of a strategy to reconcile work and family life. This has implications for equal opportunities policy.

On 27 May 1998, the European Commission launched a Recommendation calling upon all EU Member States to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 177 concerning home work, adopted by the ILO Conference on 20 June 1996. All the EU Member States except Germany and the United Kingdom have signed the Convention. The Commission believes that this will assist in furthering the effective enforcement of equal opportunities for women and men.

See also: atypical work; international labour standards; self-employed person; undeclared work.

Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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