A law stipulating working conditions for domestic workers, including a regular weekly day off, 30 days of paid annual leave and the right to retain personal documents, was approved by UAE President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, it was announced on last Tuesday.The new law also provides for a daily rest of at least 12 hours — including at least eight consecutive hours.
Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said the law strikes a balanced domestic worker-employer relationship and regulates it in a way that protects rights of all parties involved.
A look into the provisions of the law shows that it’s quite progressive. In Arab countries, domestic workers are essentially migrants from poor Asian nations. The law is the outcome of years of work of pressure groups like the Migrants Forum in Asia, Activists in the host countries, the news media and the support to such activities extended by the International Labour organisation.
Such a law does not exist in countries like ours although domestic workers are found employed in most urban households and the relatively affluent families in the rural areas. While rural domestic workers come from respective localities and can protest and in some cases resist repressive working conditions most urban demestic workers cannot assert their rights.
Violence on domestic workers in Bangladesh often lead to their physical impairment or even death. The opperssors involved turn out to be even families of sport stars. In the light of the latest UAE law the Labour Directorate can be tasked to initiate the enactment of a law to protect rights of demestic workers who come from poorest of the poor families but legally have the right to develop and lead decent life.
“The law, moreover, reflects the UAE’s commitment to supremacy of law and to aligning the local legislation with international labour standards,” Ghobash added.
Ghobash said the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation will soon complete the executive regulations and job contracts ahead of the implementation of the law.
The law will take effect two months after it is published in the official gazette.
The law promotes decent work conditions for domestic workers, including social protection and access to specialised tribunals at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and courts. It sets 18 years as a minimum age for a domestic worker, which is consistent with the international rules on elimination of child labour.
Placement agencies have to ensure that the domestic workers are informed of the terms and conditions of their employment such as the nature of work, the workplace, the remuneration and the period of daily and weekly rest as set out by the executive regulations before they cross their national borders.
The new centres called Tadbeer, which will replace domestic worker recruitment agencies by the end of the year, will guarantee proper visa, orientation and training for the workers.
The law says: “A contract accredited by the Ministry of Human Resources will be signed by the employer and the employment agency, setting out job description and qualifications of the worker as well as obligations of the employer. This contract will also detail the financial obligations towards the worker travelling to the UAE, the fees of the agent and the period required to bring in the employee.”
If the agent fails to honour the obligations set out in the contract, the employer shall have the right to decide against offering the job to the worker. The agent will then bear the cost of sending the worker back to his/her home country.
The employer also has the right to claim compensation for any inconvenience caused by the agent’s failure to meet the contract’s terms.
A domestic worker, the law states, may be engaged on probation for six months, during which his or her service may be terminated by the employer with the placement agency bearing the cost of sending the worker home if necessary.
The placement agent has to repay all fees if the contract is revoked on the worker’s own will, because of the worker or because the agreed terms of the employment contract are not honoured.
Remuneration, which has to be communicated to the worker and agreed by him or her before travelling to the UAE, has to be paid no later than the 10th of the following month and a receipt is signed upon every payment. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation may introduce a more suitable wage protection system.
No amount of money may be deducted from a worker’s salary or end-of-service gratuity except for a debt payable in execution of a court ruling or repair of any damage caused by the worker, provided that the deduction shall not exceed a quarter of the worker’s salary. If a dispute arises, it has to be settled by the special tribunals at the Ministry of Human Resources or be referred to the court.
The employer must inform the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation within five days of the worker’s absence from the workplace without a valid reason.
A worker must inform the ministry within 48 hours from quitting work without the knowledge of the employer.
Regulation of contracts
The recruitment agency must present a copy of the job offer to the worker prior to the worker’s departure from his country of origin. A standard contract accredited by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation will govern the terms and conditions of the employment.
Either employer or domestic worker may terminate the contract if the other party fails to meet his obligations. The employer or worker may terminate the contract even if the other party has met his obligations. This is called a ‘no-fault’ termination and it is subject to compensation as outlined in the Domestic Labour Law.
Entitlements of domestic workers
As per the law, domestic workers are entitled to:
• Payment of wages, as set out in the standard contract, within ten days from the day they are due;
• One day of paid rest per week;
• Twelve hours of rest per day, including eight hours of consecutive rest;
• Medical insurance provided by the employer;
• Thirty days’ medical leave per year;
• A round-trip ticket home every two years;
• A decent accommodation;
• Decent meals at the employer’s expense;
• Clothing, if required by the employer, at the employer’s expense;
• Possession of their personal identification papers such as passports, IDs etc; and
• Either the employer or the worker can refer a dispute to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. The ministry will attempt to resolve the dispute amicably within a period of two weeks. If no resolution is reached, then the matter will be referred to a court. Under this law, cases filed by workers are exempted from court fees at all stages of litigation and must be heard in a speedy and prompt manner.
The law prohibits the following:
• employment of anyone under the age 18;
• exposure to physical harm’ and
• assignment of tasks that are not covered under the contract.
Regulation of recruitment agencies
Only UAE-registered natural or legal persons with good standing may recruit domestic workers to the UAE. An agency may not, on its own or through a third party, solicit or accept from any worker, whether prior to or after employment, any form of commission in exchange for Employment.
In the event of early termination, the agency must repatriate the worker at its expense and either offer the employer an acceptable substitute worker or return to the employer the fee he/she had paid.
The agency must at all times treat the worker decently and refrain from exposing him/her to any form of violence.
New centres called Tadbeer, whose services will be regulated by the ministry, will replace domestic worker recruitment agencies by the end of 2017. These centres will guarantee proper visa, orientation and training for the workers.
Categories of domestic workers
The new professions under the domestic helpers’ category (only for households, not companies) are: housemaid, private sailor, watchman and security guard, household shepherd, family chauffeur, household horse groomer, household falcon carer and trainer, domestic labourer, housekeeper, private coach, private teacher, babysitter, household farmer, private nurse, private PRO and private agriculture engineer.
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