Thursday, 14 June 2012

More rights for migrant domestic workers if law passes

Jun 12, 2012

ABU DHABI // FNC members plan to stand firm today on a proposal that domestic workers be given a day off every week.
A new law, passed by the cabinet and now in the hands of the FNC for amendment, would ensure that household workers, including maids, nannies and drivers, have the right to holidays, sick leave, full and prompt payment and are asked to perform only duties in their job description. Domestic workers will be entitled to 30 sick days, 15 of them paid. They will be entitled to 14 days of annual leave, or cash if the worker decides not to take time off. Employers must provide a return ticket home every two years, or if the contract is breached.

Agencies bringing in workers must inform them of all their duties and the nature of the job before their arrival in the country. The agencies must also pay employment fees, and for a return ticket if the employer is unhappy with the worker during the six-month probation period.
Workers are not obliged to perform tasks outside their job description unless they have agreed to, nor to work for any third party. Salary must be paid no more that 10 days late each month. Workers must be provided with decent living conditions, meals and appropriate clothing for the job, medical care and "good honourable treatment".
Workers must be mentally stable and physically fit for the job. Breaches of the law are punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of Dh10,000 to Dh100,000. An official from the Indian embassy community affairs department said commenting on the law before it was implemented was "difficult", as it may be enforced in a different way. He said minimum wages needed to be a part of the law.

To protect employers, the law says workers must carry out jobs as asked, and must not reveal secrets learnt from working with the family. Noor Mohammed, an Emirati mother from Al Ain with two maids, said the regulations looked good on paper but would be difficult to impose. "This law is important to ensure human rights, that maids and the likes don't come here thinking they are slaves, but it has to do more with changing culture," she said. "Families are not used to all this, and a lot of offences will be hard to prove. If I treat my maids badly and threaten them, who can prove it?"

The law says inspections will be carried out, but inspectors are not allowed to enter workplaces or workers' residences without permission. Other professions included in the law are private mosque imams, sailors, security guards, shepherds, stable boys, falconers, farm workers and private nurses.

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