Law No. 13,699/2018, published on August 2, amended article 2 of Law No. 10,257/2001 (the City Statute) so as to refer to conditions applicable to domestic workers:

“Article 2. Urban policy aims to order the full development of the social functions of city and urban property, through the following general guidelines: XIX - guarantee of decent conditions of accessibility, use, and comfort in the internal premises of urban buildings, including those intended for habitation and service of domestic workers, observing minimum requirements for dimensions, ventilation, lighting, ergonomics, privacy, and quality of the materials used."

In a quick analysis, it is possible to interpret the new provision as establishing obligations for the domestic employers. However, since the City Statute provides regulations implementing articles 182 and 183 of the Federal Constitution, which deal with urban development policy, its articles are directed to the municipal public power. They establish general guidelines that must be followed by municipalities in order to attend to the social function of urban properties and to seek the well-being of their inhabitants.

It is, therefore, a programmatic law, which defines ideals to be observed by the public power in the development of its urban master plans. For this reason, it does not contain in its framework provisions for inspections or penalties.

In the statement of reasoning by Senator Cristovam Buarque, author of the bill that resulted in the amendment of the law, the reference to domestic servants was aimed at alerting the legislative houses of municipalities for them to, when drafting urban policy development plans, take into account the conditions of workplaces and housing for domestic workers:

"Although the Federal Government, because of the autonomy of federal entities, cannot penetrate the legislative territory of municipalities, which are responsible for the promulgation of urban land use and occupation laws, federal legislation should guide the establishment of such rules at the local level, observing, as is the case, the guarantee of human rights and dignity and labor rights, as this is a matter exclusivity incumbent on the Federal Government. This is what the present proposition. Without changing the essence of the simplification directive of so-called "building codes", the wording proposed here adds to the City Statute the provision that municipalities, upon legislating on this matter, establish adequate standards of accessibility and comfort for housing, including that of domestic workers. It is intended, therefore, within the scarce limits of the federal jurisdiction in the field of urban norms, to ensure due respect for the dignity of persons in the building of domestic spaces."

Along these lines, unlike what mere reading of the new legal provision might suggest, domestic employers' obligations were not established.

Incidentally, it is necessary to consider what counter-interpretation could cause serious difficulties in the very viability of domestic work. This is because the new item XIX of article 2 of the City Statute presents comprehensive and undefined mentions of accessibility, comfort, dimensions, ventilation, lighting, ergonomics, and privacy, which would make it natural to adopt as a parameter the rules presented by the Ministry of Labor on the topic.

As a consequence, there would be great difficulty in meeting the ergonomic requirements and physical conditions of workplaces for domestic servants, since the regulations of the Ministry of Labor and Employment[1] are quite rigid and often more demanding than the conditions that domestic employers themselves have in their homes.

It is concluded that the new provision included in the City Statute does not impose obligations on domestic employers, but only tries to make municipal urban development policies take into account the working conditions of domestic workers.

In any case, it is essential that, within a reasonable standard and taking into account the possibilities of their residences, employers are careful to provide good conditions for dimensions, ventilation, lighting, ergonomics, privacy, and material quality for domestic workers.

[1] According to Regulatory Rule 1, compliance with the regulations of the Ministry of Labor and Employment is mandatory only for private and public companies and public bodies of the direct and indirect public administration, as well as the bodies of the Legislative and Judiciary Branches that have employees governed by the Consolidated Labor Laws - CLT. They therefore do not apply to domestic workers.