ABU DHABI, Mar 18: A weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, the right to retain personal documents including passport, ID card and work permit, besides daily rest of at least 12 hours - including at least eight consecutive hours - are among rights that the UAE plans to assure domestic workers, reports gulfnews.com.
In a bid to ensure decent working and living conditions for domestic workers, who outnumber family members in nearly a quarter of Emirati families, changes outlined in a new draft law that seeks to amend a law passed by the Federal National Council in 2012, seeks to regulate the domestic worker industry in line with international standards.
The new proposals align the UAE's laws with the International Labour Organisation's Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
The rules, which have been approved by the UAE Cabinet, must now be passed by the Federal National Council and signed into law by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
According to a copy of the draft law obtained by Gulf News, domestic workers must be extended rights to equality and non-discrimination based on race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion or national or social sect.
The rules also extend safeguards to domestic workers against physical and verbal sexual abuse, human trafficking and forced labour in keeping with UAE's laws and international conventions ratified by the country.
There are around 750,000 domestic workers in the UAE, making up nearly 20 per cent of the expatriate workforce, according to official statistics. As many as 65 per cent of them are based in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. They outnumber family members in 22 per cent of Emirati families.
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 international rules on elimination of child labour.
Placement agencies have to ensure that domestic workers are informed of 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 have crossed their national borders.
The new draft law says: "A model 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 provide for financial obligations towards the worker travelling to the UAE, 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 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.
The employer has to sign a model contract accredited by the Ministry of Human Resources with the domestic worker, with copies being delivered to the worker, the employer, the placement agency and the Ministry of Human Resources.
Arabic shall be the language of the contract. Where a foreign language is used in addition to Arabic, the Arabic version shall be regarded as authoritative.
"The contract, which can extend to no more than two years and is renewable for similar periods, shall more particularly specify the date of its conclusion, the date on which work is to begin, type of the work and workplace, duration of the contract, the remuneration and how it is paid, leaves, probation period and rest times, as well as any other terms required by the nature of the work. The law sets six months from the date of ending the contract as the time limit for different lawsuits within which an aggrieved person can approach the court for redress or justice," it further adds.
A domestic worker, the draft law states, may be engaged on probation for three months, which can be extended to 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 of the worker's own will, because of the worker or because agreed terms of the employment contract are not honoured.
But a worker shall not be put on probation more than once in the service of any employer, unless the two parties agree to engage the worker in a different job.
To address abusive practices in respect of payment of wages, the law lays down a number of principles with regard to the protection of remuneration.
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 may set any 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.