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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

UAE committed to protection of human rights

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that the country has made significant efforts against human trafficking and has implemented measures to protect and assist domestic workers.

ABU DHABI // Domestic staff are being urged to be more aware of their rights.

The issue is complicated because workers such as housemaids and nannies are not protected by laws enforced by the Ministry of Labour.

Their employment is regulated by the Ministry of Interior, which said on Wednesday it was working with government and non-government organisations, including embassies and consulates of workers’ home countries, to find the best solutions to problems between domestic staff and their employers.

The Emirates Institution of Naturalisation and Residency has been set up to train employees of the naturalisation, residency, ports and exits departments.

They will handle all naturalisation and residency-related issues, including those involving domestic workers.

Specialised units have been established in the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs to receive complaints from domestic staff and to assist in resolving disputes.

Workers can lodge complaints on a free hotline, 800 5005.

Domestic workers who are victims of violence and abuse will be provided protection, care and shelter. They are referred by the public prosecution to the interior ministry’s social support centres.

Domestic staff may also seek assistance from shelters provided by civil society groups, the ministry said. Foundations such as the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children and Ewa’a in Abu Dhabi provide rehabilitation and help for the victims.

The UAE is committed to the protection of human rights, has made significant efforts against human trafficking and has implemented measures to protect and assist domestic workers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The UAE is party to nine International Labour Organisation conventions aimed at protecting workers’ rights, and in 2006 was the first country in the region to enact a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law.

A year later, the UAE established a National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, which publishes an annual report on progress in combating human trafficking in the country.

In January 2012, the federal Cabinet approved a draft law giving domestic workers new rights, including a weekly day off. It requires employers to compensate or give a day in lieu to domestic staff who work on their day off. The draft law must now be passed by the FNC and signed into law by Sheikh Khalifa, the President.

In March this year, Sultan Al Mansouri, head of the Higher Committee for Consumer Protection and the Minister of Economy, said standard contracts could be the answer for sponsors unhappy with high recruitment fees for maids, which have risen in the past few years.

To regulate the relationship between domestic workers and their employers, the Ministry of Interior developed a standard contract for housemaids. It was revised, updated and took effect on June 1 this year.

The contract spells out the rights and obligations of each party. These include the nature of their work, salary, work and holiday time, air tickets, fair treatment, health care provisions in the case of death, the contract terms and resolving disputes, if any, between the employee and the employer.

The amended standard contract will determine the obligations of the parties, and will be the only reference to identify these obligations and regulate the relationship between the parties. It is available for all via an electronic services system, the ministry said.

Domestic workers are provided ample legal protection under the civil transactions law, federal criminal law and the law against human trafficking.

The Interior Ministry has also set up a committee to examine recruitment agencies that deal with domestic workers, detect violations and provide recommendations to protect workers’ rights and welfare.

The employer generally bears all expenses related to recruiting domestic workers, travel costs to the UAE, accommodation and meals. The provision of health insurance is also compulsory.

A system has been established to transfer the temporary sponsorship of domestic workers with their approval, to provide the flexibility to change employers.

newsdesk@thenational.ae