x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A day off is 'not for everyone'

People who employ domestic help say giving maids a day off may not suit all local families.

DUBAI // Ali Al Kaff, a 31-year-old Emirati whose family employs four housekeepers, said giving a domestic worker a day off is a great idea, but added that it might not work for "more traditional" families.

His Filipino housekeepers get a day off for church, on their birthdays, and on special occasions.

They are also free to attend dance and computer classes and have access to wireless internet for a few hours a day, he said.

"The important thing we have found as a family is how responsible the domestic worker is," Mr Al Kaff said. "We noticed that religion and the level of education is important."

He said, in his family's experience, Christian workers with good English tended to be more responsible.

Merty, one of Mr Al Kaff's housekeepers, who did not give her last name, said: "My employers allow us to go out and I have been working with them for eight years, because they're a good family and they're not treating us like housemaids but like one family. So I love them, especially mama, and I treat Ali like my brother."

"I have friends whose employer is local and they don't let them go outside, but we can go outside anywhere, not only when we have something to do," she said. "I want to tell local families to allow at least a day or two off once a month. I have one friend whose employer is local and she ran away because she wanted to go out."

Mariam, a 45-year-old Emirati, said she has heard many stories of housekeepers absconding. "The issue with giving them a day off is that they may run away and, if this happens, would there be a law that protects the local sponsor?

"In our freej [neighbourhood], we hear a lot of stories of maids who ran away after taking out the rubbish," she said.

aalhaddad@thenational.ae