The new rules issued by Saudi Arabia to protect the rights of foreign domestic workers are commendable. They encompass crucial areas of employment such as giving a recommended salary that must be paid on a monthly basis and on time. They also include a right to a weekly day off, sick leave, 30 days paid leave every two years, suitable accommodation and a stipulated period of nine hours rest every working day.
These requirements are entirely within the normal requirements of a labour law in GCC states, and the move does a lot of good by defining the services of domestic workers under a legal contract, making the arrangement transparent to both home workers and the family employing them. When a housemaid is employed by a family, she must be seen as holding a job and not be seen as an honorary member of the family, since that more vague relationship is open to abuse as the worker’s rights can be ignored with impunity. The principle of the new Saudi rules is that it should not make a difference if the job is in the corporate or domestic environment.
This means that the job should be viewed within the legal framework of a labour contract that protects the terms and conditions of employment. The rules mean that a housemaid can seek redressal for any grievances, which benefits society by ensuring that the relationship between the family and the domestic help is transparent, productive and mutually beneficial.