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11-06-2012 - Gulfnews

Domestic helpers rules will be aligned with international standard

The Federal National Council is to debate Tuesday a draft law on domestic workers, which is meant to align the country's rules to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

As reported in Gulf News, the proposed law will provide domestic workers a weekly paid day off, two weeks of paid annual leave, holidays, and 15 paid sick days.

The draft law also will impose harsh criminal sentences, including imprisonment, on those who "encourage" a domestic worker to quit her job or offer her shelter. It is unclear whether the law will exclude people who shelter domestic workers fleeing from abusive employers.

The UAE's Cabinet approved the Domestic Workers Bill in January; The Federal National Council must still approve the legislation before it is signed into law by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Placement agencies will be required to ensure that domestic workers are informed of the terms and conditions of their employment, such as the nature of work and remuneration, before leaving their country of origin. Once a worker is in the UAE, the law will require the employer to provide decent living conditions that respect the worker's privacy, the Gulf News article said.

The draft law stipulates that if an employer terminates a contract with a migrant domestic worker, the employer must provide the worker with an air ticket home, a month's remuneration as compensation, and other expenses. However, the worker will bear the cost of travelling home if he or she decides to end the contract.

The employer would also be required to pay all money due to the worker within 10 days of the end of the contract. A worker who completes at least a year of service will be entitled to an end-of-service gratuity amounting to one month's salary for each year of service.

Disputes between workers and employers would be referred to Interior Ministry tribunals, which could then refer the matter to the court.

In June, the UAE voted at the ILO to support adoption of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The convention requires governments that have ratified the convention to provide domestic workers with labour protections equivalent to those of other workers, including those regulating working hours and overtime compensation. The new standards also oblige governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and to ensure effective monitoring and enforcement. Human Rights Watch urged the UAE to ratify the convention as soon as possible.


Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights