UAE | General

UAE maid rules 'stacked against sponsors'

Employers of housekeepers say no regulations to protect their time and money

  • By Anjana Sankar, Senior Reporter
  • Published: 21:00 August 21, 2013

Abu Dhabi: Stories about exploited or abused housemaids often paint employers in a bad light. But that’s just one side of the story.

Instances abound where employers have been at the receiving end too.

Many residents attributed this to a lack of rules to safeguard their interest.

“There are rules to protect domestic workers against abuse, but nothing for us,” lamented J. Koshy, a Dubai-based Indian entrepreneur, who hired his third housemaid in recent years. 
Sponsoring a housemaid in the UAE involves a lot of money and paperwork. Residents said it all goes down the drain when the housemaid runs away or suddenly decides to go back.

Dubai-based Indian engineer Srinivas said he was forced to put up with the tantrums of his 50-year-old housemaid as he had spent Dh15,000 to bring her from his native state Andra Pradesh.

“Within two months of the job, she wanted to go back. We tried to reason with her but she was adamant. If that was not bad enough, she was very demanding. Left with no choice, I send her back last month,” he said.

Indian expat Lissy Benson, who lives in Sharjah, said they lost Dh8,000 after their maid left them within six months.

“From day one, she was a headache. She wanted a room for herself and remained glued to the TV for most of the time. We conceded to all her demands and yet she left.”

An Abu-Dhabi-based Australian family said their Indonesian maid threatened to report them to police for harrasment when they intervened in a fistfight with other maids.

Stringent rules

Most countries have stringent regulations for overseas recruitment of domestic help.

In addition to the minimum wage, a domestic help is entitled to yearly return tickets, free food and accommodation. The regulations differ from country to country. The minimum wage for a domestic worker from the Philippines is Dh1,400, Sri Lanka Dh825 and Nepal Dh900.

The minimum wage stipulated by India is Dh1,100. A prepaid mobile phone with SIM card should be given to the housemaid upon arrival.

The sponsor is required to sign an employment contract attested by the Notary Public, Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To sponsor a Nepalese maid, the employer also needs a police clearance certificate.

Runaway maids

The long-drawn process gets further complicated when the maid goes absconding.

An Iraqi mother found this the hard way when her maid left the house while she was away at work, even as her two daughters, aged 10 and seven, slept inside.

“I hired her from a manpower supply agency in Sharjah after coughing up around Dh15,000. The agency charged me Dh6,800. I paid Dh5,215 for the maid’s residence visa, Dh755 for entry permit, Dh605 for change in visa status and Dh2,000 as servant deposit. But when I contacted the agency, it washed off its hands. I filed a complaint with the authorities but ended up spending more money: Dh230 as ‘deportation of violator’s fee’ and Dh130 as ‘exit passenger fee’. This is so unfair. I cannot afford the huge costs,” the woman said.

Another Dubai resident found herself in a similar situation when their Indonesian maid went missing the day her visa got stamped.

“We had spent over Dh15,000 - including Dh7,000 as agency fees to the Abu-Dhabi-based recruitment company.

“When we contacted the agency, we were told that they cannot do anything other than check if she had gone to the Indonesian Consulate. It is mystifying that there are absolutely no laws protecting the sponsor in such a situation. If the maid ran away because she was being mistreated, she would have gone to her embassy/consulate or to the agent as the agency had advised her to do so. However, she is now free to find illegal employment while we’re left to foot a huge bill,” she said.

In Sharjah, 518 housemaids ran away from their sponsors last year and ended up working as prostitutes.

It is an alarming trend among women from Asian and African countries, said Rashid Ali Majed Al Omran, Sharjah’s chief prosecutor.

Recently Dubai police arrested a runaway housemaid who masterminded a slavery ring, luring domestic workers into sex trade.

Police said her gang encouraged maids to abscond with promises of better work. Instead, they were locked up and made to sleep with men.

The embittering experience of sponsoring a maid has prompted many residents to opt for part -time help even though it’s illegal.

Residents hiring illegal housemaids could be fined up to Dh50,000.

“I know it’s wrong, but what do we do. I spent a fortune trying to sponsor a maid. It didn’t work,” said an Abu Dhabi resident.

Statistics from the Court of Naturalisation and Residency in Dubai showed that at least 70 per cent cases pending with the department’s prosecution involves housemaids.

An Indian embassy official said they are duty-bound to protect the rights of domestic workers. “They are a vulnerable and weak section of the society. It is easy for them to fall victim to an oppressive employer and they don’t have many doors to knock for help.”

“Employers have the luxury of choice whereas domestic workers don’t,” he said.

Dos and don’ts to avoid trouble with maids

Give the maid a true picture of what to expect before she comes to work for you. Make her understand she is not coming for a holiday abroad

Choose a maid who does not have an ailing husband or small kids back home. They may have genuine concerns and can easily become homesick

Wait for a month before you stamp the visa on the passport. That gives you enough time to study her behaviour and commitment to work.

Don’t let your housemaid go out unaccompanied for a long period of time. You are inviting trouble.

Always keep monthly salary slips and make your maid signs on them on their pay day. You may need to show proof at the embassy.

You Speak

Have you had similar issues with your housemaid? Should authorities make it legal to hire part-time maids?

Write to us at:

sms 5101

Domestic help insurance for just Dh1,500

If you are an individual employer of a maid, cook, driver or gardener, you can now get them a reasonable insurance plan.

For a premium of around Dh1,500 a year, you can get them a domestic aid medical plan which includes a Dh50,000 medical insurance cover, in addition to Dh50,000 as life insurance and Dh10,000 for repatriation of their mortal remains in the case of any eventuality.

The unique plan was launched by Noor Takaful, the Islamic insurance arm of the Noor Investment Group (Noor), on August 15, with a target of around 400,000 privately-sponsored domestic workers in the UAE. It is currently applicable to residents of Dubai and the northern emirates, but will be extended to Abu Dhabi later this year.

Parvaiz Siddiq, CEO of Noor Takaful, told XPRESS: “We introduced this product after much research. We found that this segment of the market needed to be addressed as there was a huge gap and it was underserviced. Domestic workers have little protection against sudden expenses owing to illness or accidents. Their families are also heavily dependent on them for financial support.”

He said the medical insurance under the new plan covers both outpatient care and hospitalisation, extending to the whole gamut of consultations, laboratory tests, prescribed drugs and procedures.

“We have structured it in such a way that it is reasonable and caters to the specific requirements of this segment.”

Siddiq said the domestic aid medical plan is the first of a series of products planned under the ‘Noor Popular’ initiative, where Shari’a compliant banking services will be added on in due course. They would include pre-paid cards and ensure ease of salary transfers, home remittances and so on.

Sharmila Dhal, Chief Reporter

Comments (10)

  1. Added 10:00 August 22, 2013

    I think the authorities should make part-time maids legal. They should be sponsored by an agency who is licensed to recruit maids and they should be legally allowed to work as part-time maid. This way employers will not be able to harass them or abuse them as also they will not be encouraged to run away from the authorities. I have a part-time paid who does the cleaning and looking after children and she really does her job well.

    Reny, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 09:13 August 22, 2013

    It's so true! In the news we constantly hear, that ''bad'' employer treats her/his house maid horribly. But it's not always the case! I live in Jumeirah and many ''democratic'' expat families have problems with their housemaids. Me and my husband faced it too. Sadly, housemaid from Philipines were drama makers. But the housemaid from Sri Lanka surprised us too. At the time we interviewed her, she was divorced with married kids and dying to work in our house. Though, after a month, her grown-up daughter was asking her to come back to Sri Lanka, her ex-husband came to Dubai and was insisting to live with our housemaid and she started to make fuss about many household procedures (cooking, cleaning etc). Now, after few months of ''work'' she is asking for release and I wonder, what is her logic? What do those people want to do in their life? I sometimes realize, that better you treat the domestic helpers (by not pressing them during work hours, giving them a time to adjust, providing absolute freedom at the their own time)- worse they treat you, taking your kindness for granted. I really wish, the housemaids to be imposed to pay a fine once they fail to perform the commitments they gave while signing the contract!

    Sophia, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 08:47 August 22, 2013

    I had a maid who left after a week she came and wanted to go the same day she arrived here.after spending nearly Dh10,000.

    muiz, ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 08:27 August 22, 2013

    This is so very true! Just what I always wanted to say. I am a working mom and I have been hiring housemaids locally and for the past three years from my home country. We have to bear and tolerate so many things with them - financially, socially etc. In spite of all this, they don't show a drop of gratitude to us. The Embassy is always in favor of them. We are asked to give a huge deposit, then so many other paper works, formalities and related costs with those. So much of our time and money is spent in that for which no voice is raised. I really wonder at times how couples earning lesser salaries manage with their children in Dubai.

    SS, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 08:11 August 22, 2013

    I have got a 50 year old maid at my house, staying with us since 6 months. She keeps on demanding more and more money, which I did give her till last month, even though she was not good at her work. But when I realized she was stealing money and telling lies all the time, I denied to give her advance salary for 4 months as she had demanded. She started harassing us by putting too much chilly powder in the food, hiding things we need, damaging home appliances, breaking crockery, etc. I treated her like member of our family, but now I know we will invite trouble if we do so. so I feel its high time authorities make it legal to appoint part time workers.

    Haritha, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 07:59 August 22, 2013

    What is reported by gulf new is less, children's are beaten like a hell by housemaids , I personally knew as it happened to my friend, I had housemaid she was puffing in balcony when my 2 month old was left inside house unattended. Many of them are calling their boyfriends when everybody is outside for office..... there are many horrific stories..... These house maid are night mare , you are lucky if u get a good maid.

    zia, dxb, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 07:26 August 22, 2013

    Consider the amount of paperwork that the employer has to handle in order to even start the visa process of a maid and you will realize that it is pure torture and no less. No wonder people here opt to employ maids illegally. It is high time concerned authorities started looking into the procedures and made adequate amendments to support employers who want to employ maids through proper channels. I mean what does an attested affection plan for your apartment have to do with having a maid? Please make it easier for people who wish to employ maids to take up visas. That way govt. can look forward to having much fewer people opting for illegal means.

    Laxmi Nair, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 02:57 August 22, 2013

    Over and above all reported by all aggrieved, I have been blacklisted from employing a maid. She ran away for no reason and the Indian Consulate treats us as if we were at fault. High time they be fair to both the housemaids as well as the sponsor.

    J George, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 01:10 August 22, 2013

    We support the govt law to protect the housemaid but we should also be given protection as employers. The fee we pay for a housemaid is too high, it is about time to re-look at these figures.... it is too much.

    Charm, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 21:55 August 21, 2013

    The worst is I spenta lot of money to bring a maid on my sponsorship through agency from philphines and she came for 31 days and send her back.

    steeven, dubai, United Arab Emirates