x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

New law will give maids more rights and day off

All domestic workers should be told how to file a complaint about their employers if they suffer abuse or any other problems, according to a law proposed by the Ministry of Interior and passed by the FNC.

ABU DHABI // All domestic workers should be told how to file a complaint about their employers if they suffer abuse or any other problems, according to a law proposed by the Ministry of Interior and passed by the FNC.
The proposal, discussed in the presence of Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister, sets out rules for employers.
It is a crime to mistreat workers, not inform them how to file complaints, not pay them on time and in full or grant them days off.
As part of the FNC amendment, employees must be informed of the UAE culture and tradition, be given appropriate accommodation and treated well without exposure to violence.
According to Ministry of Interior statistics, domestic workers have committed more than 1,000 crimes so far this year, compared with 862 in the same period last year. This is attributed to a lack of information about the laws and cultures in the country.
Not all members, however, believed there was a need to elaborate on workers' rights, stating that the amendment list would specify all details.
The majority of members who attended the session yesterday, however, said it was necessary to legitimise the law.
Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman), a member of the interior and defence committee, said the details had been discussed with the Ministry of Interior on Monday, and it had agreed to all the changes.
"We are criticised by [international human rights organisations] on the ill-treatment of workers in the country, so we need to mention all this," he said.
The agreement to list the workers' rights was passed by a vote of 23-10.
To ensure no false complaints are filed against the employer, workers are required to give a salary receipt to their employers. Members insisted workers must be of sound mind and free from mental illness when coming to the UAE to work.
Although some members, including Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin (RAK), said such a requirement was not something any other country had, other members said they needed to ensure that maids, and nannies especially, were not mentally ill.
"Particularly for nannies, we see killings and crimes in the news," Dr Mona Al Bahar (Dubai) said. "This is for family stability, how can we give this up. This is because of the cases we see. If she is mentally ill, how can she work at our home."
When it came to discussing a mandatory day off for domestic workers, members asked for the law to allow workers to leave their place of employment.
The law states that the day off will be a day of "relaxation", not specifying if the worker may leave or not.
Sheikh Saif said the matter should be clarified in the work contract beforehand.
The contract, according to the law, must be presented to the worker before he or she enters the country. To ensure that recruitment agencies abide by the law, every recruitment office must be managed by an Emirati.
All workers must also undergo medical tests before entering the country, the law states.
The recruitment agency will have to reimburse the employer for all fees paid to bring in the worker, and pay for the worker's return ticket should they have a communicable disease.
If a worker becomes pregnant, leaves work for no reason or breaches a contract, the agency is liable for all costs. If a worker becomes disabled on the job, the employer is responsible for providing a return ticket.
Violations of the law will lead to fines or imprisonment.
Mosque imams have been removed from the law, as it "was seen to be inappropriate to include" them among domestic workers, members said.
The new list of professions now includes maids, nannies, cooks, sailors, security guards, shepherds, stable boys, falconers, farm workers, private nurses, housekeepers, gardeners, private tutors and personal drivers.
The proposal now goes to the Cabinet for review, and the president must enact it.
osalem@thenational.ae
hadajani@thenational.ae