On the occasion of the commemoration of Domestic Workers’ Day, SERV would like to recount the history of domestic service in Colombia as a tribute to the women who dedicate their lives to the care of our homes and families. It is essential to reflect on the discriminatory working conditions that these women have been victims of throughout history to understand the importance of the struggle they are currently waging to legitimize their labor rights and achieve labor equity.


Domestic work has existed in our country since colonial times, long before the existence of the Republic of Colombia as we know it today. Around 1525, when the Spaniards founded the first cities and built their homes, the need arose to have the personnel to take care of household chores since the ladies of high society could not assume these tasks.

This is how the history of domestic service in Colombia began. In the beginning, these tasks were performed by enslaved Black people and indigenous women. These women served in the houses and haciendas of the Spaniards and the white Creoles. The indigenous women rendered the service as part of the Mita tax, a tribute that the indigenous people had to pay to the conquistadors as retribution for civilization and Catholic teaching.

With the proclamation of independence in Colombia in 1810 and the abolition of slavery in 1851, a new scenario was created for women in domestic service. Enslaved Black people subscribed to the new labor conditions of freedom, moving from a life of unpaid servitude to a paid one.

With the accession of enslaved Black people to the paid domestic service labor market, the service supply increased; consequently, the working conditions and wages of domestic workers became more precarious. Unlike other workers, domestic workers did not have any employment contract or labor rights, but their duties and obligations were specified.

Industrialization and urban expansion began in Colombia in the second half of the 19th century. This phenomenon caused the cities to become the recipients of the peasant population that migrated to the city in search of job opportunities. In this context, domestic service represented the primary source of employment for low-income, uneducated peasant women. During these years, women had limited access to primary education and no higher education rights.

In 1930, after the “Banana Factory Massacre,” the first trade union organizations and workers’ councils were formed to demand better working conditions. Even though the union struggle succeeded in establishing the first labor standards in the Colombian legal system, the domestic service sector remained invisible.

During these days, instead of being conceived as a labor relationship, following Law 10 of 1934, domestic service was governed by the figure of “leasing of domestic servants,” a contractual modality stipulated in the Colombian Civil Code, which only recognized the obligations of the worker, who for a salary lower than the minimum wage, had to provide the services required by his employer and always be available for whatever was offered at any time of the day or night. This regulation was in force until 1950 when the Substantive Labor Code was issued.

Substantive Labor Code in Colombia

In 1950, with the issuance of the Substantive Labor Code, for the first time in Colombia, a legal framework was established to regulate the rights and duties governing the labor relationship between the employee and the employer. However, this legislation did not protect domestic employees because they were not considered formal workers. At that time, domestic work was performed mainly by the most vulnerable population; peasant women or women of segregated ethnicity without education and with low economic resources.

These women lacked the knowledge and resources necessary to assert their rights and demanded treatment similar to that received by unionized workers. In this context, domestic workers’ labor precariousness and discriminatory treatment were normalized. These precepts were maintained throughout the 20th century in Colombia.

ILO Decent Work Convention 2012

On December 21, 2012, the Congress of the Republic of Colombia, employing Law 1595, approved the “Convention on decent work for domestic workers” adopted in Geneva, Swiss Confederation, at the 100th session of the International Labor Conference on June 16, 2011.

With the ratification of this convention for the first time in Colombia, the necessary legislative measures were adopted to guarantee fair labor rights for domestic workers. Currently, in Colombia, all employers must formalize their domestic workers, affiliate them with social security and pay all their social benefits. After almost 500 years, domestic workers in Colombia are finally considered legitimate workers with rights.


In 2017 SERV was born as a technological solution to the problem of many households in Colombia to get a reliable person to take care of the cleaning and as a formal work alternative with all the benefits of the law for domestic workers. SERV combines technology with human talent to carry out its mission to dignify and professionalize the work of domestic service in Colombia.

After a rigorous selection and training process, SERV’s domestic workers are hired directly and formally. SERV assumes all legal obligations with the workers so that the end client has nothing to worry about and is protected against possible lawsuits.

At SERV, domestic workers are called Cleaning Professionals. SERV provides these women with the stability and labor guarantees they never had in the informal sector, in addition to a plan of extra-legal benefits that encourages these women’s professional and personal growth. Thanks to the interest-free loans that SERV offers its employees, many cleaning professionals have fulfilled their dream of owning their own homes. Others are finishing high school and delivering quality education to their children.