Recruitment agencies will be held partly liable for unpaid wages and must deposit a Dh1 million cash guarantee as part of new regulations announced yesterday by the Ministry of Labour.
Agencies will also have to set aside Dh2,000 for each worker, and a ban on the establishment of new recruitment companies, introduced five years ago, will be lifted.
The cash deposits apply to employment agencies that outsource labourers for a third party. They allow the ministry to use the money to compensate workers who are not paid by their employer.
All new recruitment agencies will have to comply with the new regulations, which take effect at the end of January, in order to be licensed by the ministry. Existing agencies will be given six months to comply.
The new rules also ban recruitment agencies from outsourcing workers to companies involved in collective labour disputes.
They also stipulate that agencies which provide broker services will have to provide a Dh300,000 bank guarantee.
Recruitment agencies will also have to ensure that workers do not pay any fees, either in the Emirates or abroad, to secure their jobs. Recruitment agencies will also be obliged to return any such fee levied on the worker.
The regulations are part of an effort to boost transparency and workers' rights, Saqr Gobash, the Minister of Labour, said yesterday.
"The new decision aims to correct some of the malpractices committed from the early stages of the mass recruitment cycle, and takes into consideration the need for transparency between the employer and employees, as it gives the right for the worker to understand his contractual obligations and rights before being recruited," the minister said.
Although currently recruitment agencies are not allowed to collect any fees from workers in the UAE, many workers pay large amounts in their home countries as part of the recruitment process.
The ministry will host a two-day workshop, beginning on Tuesday, to discuss ways in which to regulate how recruitment companies operate overseas.
"The ministry believes in the necessity to continue cooperating with labour supplying countries, which can provide protection to their workers against illegal practices taking place back in their home countries," Mr Gobash said.
Representatives from several Asian labour supplying countries, the International Labour Organisation and the International Organisation for Migration are expected to attend the workshop.
Recruitment agencies will risk having their licences suspended for up to a year if they are found to be violating the rules, especially if they are found to be involved in any form of forced labour or human trafficking.
Regulation of recruitment will mean both parties will better understand their rights and duties, leading to a better working environment, a more stable labour market and higher productivity, Mr Gobash said.
"The ministry does not want any employer to be involved with workers who are not satisfied or aware of the conditions of their employment.
"The ministry does not want a worker to have paid a certain amount of money that would mean that his work would no longer be profitable. This would make him less productive and thus will have a negative impact on the employer," he said.
The new rules:
-Recruitment agencies must pay a bank guarantee of Dh1 million if the agency is to outsource workers and Dh300,000 for agencies serving as a broker. These bank guarantees can be liquidated if the agency fails to meet its obligations.
-Agencies that provide labour outsourcing services are jointly responsible for non-payment of salaries.
-The owner of the agency must be Emirati and not have a history of non-payment of salaries.
-Agencies are banned from outsourcing labourers for companies are involved in collective labour disputes.
-Recruitment firms need to ensure that no fees are to be collected from the worker whether in the UAE or abroad.
-Workers must have a clear understanding of their contractual obligations and duties.
-The agency needs to define the scope of its proposed activities and operate from a registered business address and employ qualified personnel.