By Isabel de Leon
On the 21st of January 2020, the Centre for Access to Justice Student Pro Bono Committee held its first Academics vs Students Debate Fundraiser. This event was organised in support of Kalayaan, a small London-based charity that works to provide practical advice and support to, as well as campaigns with and for, the rights of migrant domestic workers in the UK. In light of this, the motion for the debate, kindly contributed by Natalie Sedacca, was as follows: This House would make homes that employ domestic workers subject to labour inspections”.
“This House would make homes that employ domestic workers subject to labour inspections”.
The night began with a brief presentation by a representative from Kalayaan, Alex Millbrook, a lawyer whose experience has seen work at the Court of Appeal, as well as in Hong Kong where she chaired a charity that provided legal advice for migrant domestic workers, chiefly in employment and immigration law. Her expertise in this area gave the audience a clear background against which to understand and appreciate the debate.
The Academics Team, consisting of Dr Mark Dsouza and Professor Colm O’Cinneide, argued in the affirmative. They argued that homes that employ domestic workers should indeed be subject to labour inspections, paying mind to human rights considerations as well as the statutory framework within which this could be made possible.
The Students Team, consisting of Rahul Jayaprabha and Michael Sia, argued in the negative, asserting that although the rights of domestic workers should indeed be protected, such labour inspections would create not only be an invasion of privacy but would also constitute an economic burden on public resources, and might have an unanticipated adverse effect on the domestic workers it seeks to protect.
This debate proved to be both educational and engaging, with both teams forming an exciting back-and-forth dialogue that delved into the crux of the matter. In what proved to be a difficult decision, our judge Shiva Riahi found that the Academics Team prevailed due to the convincing substance of their appeal to human rights.
We would like to thank the participating academics and students who made this debate possible, as well as Alex Millbrook for taking the time to present at the event, Shiva Riahi for judging, and Natalie Sedacca for contributing the debate motion.