Dubai: New centres called Tadbeer will replace domestic worker recruitment agencies by the end of the year, the Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation announced on Wednesday.
Saqr Ghobash said this decision was taken as the services provided by current recruitment agencies often do not meet the needs of both the domestic worker and the employer.
“These new centres will drive a big change. We hope to have better services with the same prices in the market,” Ghobash said.
Tadbeer centres will guarantee proper visa, orientation and training for the workers, the minister said.
Private companies are being invited to submit proposals to operate the centres, whose services will be mandated and regulated by the ministry.
Ghobash warned current recruitment centres to improve their services to the ministry’s desired standards, or it would be hard for them to stay in business.
“We are not happy with the level of services [in recruitment centres]. It’s not acceptable,” Ghobash said. “After launching Tadbeer, we will not allow anyone to provide such services unless it is through Tadbeer centres.”
Services provided by Tadbeer centres will include conducting pre-arrival interviews with domestic workers to ensure that they understand their contractual rights, providing training and education to new workers, resolving disputes between workers and employers, and checking on worker accommodation.
“Tadbeer centres will set a new standard for the provision of services to domestic helpers, enabling access to better information and training, and ensuring that working conditions and accommodation are appropriate,” Ghobash said, adding that the ministry will license operators according to their capacity to “meet our high standards and ensure customers’ happiness”.
The minister hoped that Tadbeer will reduce cases of domestic workers absconding as the centres will guarantee their welfare. “There is no magical solution to some of the cases involving runaway helpers. We are studying the reasons behind them and looking for solutions,” Ghobash said.
On the Filipino maids’ issue, Ghobash said discussions were held with the Philippines government two weeks earlier regarding sending maids to the UAE. Philippines had stopped sending housemaids to the UAE since 2014. “We are hoping to reach a settlement in the coming weeks with the government regarding the problem,” Ghobash said.
Aisha Belharfia, assistant undersecretary for Domestic Worker Affairs, outlined some of the criteria that the ministry will set for businesses applying to operate Tadbeer centres.
“Our aim is to ensure that the centres are inviting, spacious and accessible. This centre will boost the UAE’s reputation regarding domestic helpers,” she said.
The announcement of Tadbeer follows the UAE Cabinet’s recent transfer of responsibility for domestic workers to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. This is first applicable in Dubai before being rolled out in the rest of the UAE later this year.
The new proposals align the UAE’s laws with the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
The rules, which have been approved by the UAE Cabinet, must now be passed by the Federal National Council and signed into law by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Services that Tadbeer will provide
Picking up domestic workers from the airport and transporting them to the employers.
Pre-interview service between worker and employer.
Developing the workers’ skills and educating them about UAE traditions.
Medical checks for domestic workers.
Issuing visa and Emirates ID.
Health insurance for workers.
Point-of-contact for the worker and employer regarding any issue or enquiries.
Requirements to open a Tadbeer centre
Director of the centre must be an Emirati over the age of 21.
Proposed locations for centres must be on the ground floor, have an area of minimum 4,000 square feet and be fitted out according to a design set by the ministry.
Applications coming from the ministry’s staff or relatives — of the first degree — will be disqualified.
Applicants must provide the ministry with a bank guarantee of not less than Dh500,000.
What the new proposal for domestic worker provides
A weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, the right to retain personal documents including passport, ID card and work permit, besides daily rest of at least 12 hours, including at least eight consecutive hours — are among rights that the UAE plans to assure domestic workers.
According to a copy of the draft law, domestic workers must be extended rights to equality and non-discrimination based on race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion or national or social sect.
The rules also extend safeguards to domestic workers against physical and verbal sexual abuse, human trafficking and forced labour in keeping with UAE’s laws and international conventions ratified by the country.
There are around 750,000 domestic workers in the UAE, making up nearly 20 per cent of the expatriate workforce, according to official statistics. As many as 65 per cent of them are based in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. They outnumber family members in 22 per cent of Emirati families.