x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Tougher rules for hiring Sri Lankan maids in UAE

Sri Lanka has introduced a minimum wage of Dh800 and additional benefits for employment of housemaids in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // Tougher rules for hiring housemaids and a fixed minimum wage have been introduced by the Sri Lankan government.

In addition to a monthly minimum of Dh800, employers must provide food, a return ticket, medical insurance and separate sleeping quarters. A security deposit of US$1,000 (Dh3,673) is also being asked for.

Minimum wages and deposits differ from country to country.

"We are not going to approve any applications which fail to conform to these conditions to employ domestic help from Sri Lanka," said MEG Samaraweera, first secretary of labour affairs at the Sri Lanka Embassy.

The mission receives about 25 applications for domestic helpers a day, while the consulate in Dubai get about 50. Sixty per cent of the Sri Lankan population in the UAE work as maids. There are 300,000 Sri Lankans in the country - 50,000 more than 10 years ago.

Domestic helpers who come to the Emirates without the support of an agency are often taken advantage of Mr Samaraweera said using authorised agencies and the embassy's services increases their chances of success.

There are 74 agencies in the emirates registered with the mission. Thirty-five recruit regularly.

More than 2,000 Sri Lankans come to the UAE every month to work. Most are unskilled but the government has been striving to replace those workers with semi-skilled and skilled workers. A number of vocational training programmes have been launched to prepare workers for overseas jobs.

Sponsors can get their deposits back once they cancel employees' visas. The mission will enforce a Dh10,000 minimum salary and "if the sponsors fail to provide a separate room for housemaids we will not approve any application", Mr Samaraweera said.

There are 45 maids in safe houses and 10 at the embassy who have had problems with their sponsors, according to the mission. They are being sheltered while waiting for the matters to be resolved and then repatriated.

Issues include unpaid salaries, Mr Samaraweera said.