Many maids are being deprived time off during the week
ABU DHABI // Many maids are being deprived of a day off each week and the right to use a mobile phone, recruiters in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain have said.
Maids have also left their jobs after complaining of being mistreated, overworked or not being paid by their employers.
But Juliet Lasalita, who runs a recruitment agency in Al Ain that hires Filipino, Indian and Bangladeshi maids and nannies, said many of these women were unprepared for domestic work overseas.
“They are not equipped to handle young children and easily get upset when employers shout at them,” she said. “They refuse to work for a large household or clean a huge villa.”
Every month, her agency supplies sponsors with between 50 and 70 maids from the Philippines and 10 to 15 maids from India.
“My agency does not suffer from a high turnover rate,” said Ms Lasalita, who has lived and worked in Al Ain for 24 years. “For every 50 maids deployed from the Philippines a month, at least one or two run away from their employers.”
Three or four maids are referred back to the agency every month.
“Many of them do not want to take care of their employers’ children, while others complain of being overworked,” she said. “But they should have declined the job offer while they were in the Philippines. Employers spend more than Dh10,000 each to hire a maid.”
Although weekly rest is included in their contracts, the maids are aware that they will not have any days off, Ms Lasalita said.
“The agency that we deal with in the Philippines informs them and they’ve agreed to it,” she said. “But when they arrive here, they learn that other maids get a day off and have a mobile phone.”
Philippine regulations prevent foreign agencies from directly recruiting Filipinos, so an agency based in the UAE that would like to tap into the Filipino labour market has to work with an accredited agency in the Philippines.
There is also the issue of maids’ contracts falling under Ministry of Interior rules, as opposed to those set by the Ministry of Labour.
This applies to household service workers, most of whom are women, and includes maids, nannies, family drivers, cooks and gardeners.
“They are deprived of rights and protection given by the country’s labour laws,” said Nhel Morona, UAE coordinator for the rights group Migrante Middle East. “They have long working hours and do not have a weekly day off since they are not covered by provisions regulating their working time.”
Some, however, believe that giving maids more time off could be a recipe for disaster.
Marilyn Buising, who is in charge of maid recruitment at Majestic Manpower Services in Abu Dhabi, said: “It’s not safe for them to leave their employers’ home during their day off. They will encounter men ... who will exploit them.”
Maids who work for Arab employers become envious when they learn that maids working for British employers earn more, enjoy a day off and have unrestricted use of their mobile phones, she added.
“They should be willing to make some sacrifices,” Ms Buising said.
Niema Solidarios, at Golden Corner Manpower in Abu Dhabi, said: “I often tell clients ... these women came here to work to support their families so they should pay them on time and treat them well. But the maids should also work hard and earn their employers’ trust.”
Updated: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM