Dubai: Diplomats, migration experts and household service workers have hailed the UAE’s new law on domestic workers that took effect on Thursday, describing it a milestone in governing the rights, welfare and mobility of migrant workers.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) had first announced the issuance of Federal Law No. 9 of 2022 Concerning Domestic Workers on October 5. MoHRE noted the law does not only regulate the employment of domestic workers but “also defines the rights and responsibilities of the various parties concerned”.
“It also protects the rights of domestic workers and meets the aspirations of both parties, which contributes to reduced labour disputes and enhances the UAE’s competitiveness,” added MoHRE, underlining that “workers cannot be recruited from their home country before being informed of their nature of work and wages”.
The new law clearly stipulates that household service workers (HSWs) should be treated in a humane way, and not exposed to danger or violence.
They will also not be left vulnerable to exploitation and forced labour as it is now mandatory to not only educate domestic workers about their rights, but also to make them aware of relevant authorities they can turn to for help when their rights are violated.
Domestic workers must be provided a booklet with details of their wages and other important information to ensure they are paid properly. They also have the right to keep their personal identification documents (including passport).
Other salient provisions of the decree include prohibiting recruiting domestic staff under the age of 18 and removing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, nationality, social status, or disability. The domestic worker is also entitled to a weekly rest day as determined by the executive regulations of the law, which also set out clear guidelines on annual leave and other entitlements.
The domestic workers, meanwhile, are required to present evidence of their fitness, health, psychological and professional competence for the work required.
Indian Consul General in Dubai, Dr Aman Puri, told Gulf News: “We thank the UAE authorities for their efforts in ushering in recent reforms by instituting legislative framework for domestic workers.”
“The new law clearly outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the domestic worker and the employer. This will benefit domestic workers including many of the female Indian workforce.
“The Indian Consulate will strive to publicise about the benefits of reforms among prospective Indian emigrants. We remain indebted to the UAE leadership for enabling a large number of Indians to reside, work and contribute in development of both our countries,” he added.
Philippine Labour Attaché John Rio Bautista also praised the UAE government. He said: “We congratulate the UAE government for the passage of the new law, [Federal Law No. 9 of 2022], amending Federal Law No. 10 of 2017 and related laws, that provides further protection to our domestic workers.”
Bautista noted: “The new law recognises the international agreements, including the bilateral agreement with the Republic of the Philippines on the recruitment, deployment and employment of domestic workers.”
Curbing illegal recruitment is another strong feature of the new law, Bautista remarked, adding: “It likewise establishes the minimum standards and obligations of each party. The new legislation also strengthens action and provided harsher penalties against illegal recruitment and employment and violation of the rights and welfare of domestic workers.”
“Indeed, the UAE is in the forefront in the recognition of international instruments issued for the domestic workers and the issuance of Federal Law No. 9 of 2022 is a clear manifestation of its commitment to uphold the rights and uplift the welfare of our domestic workers,” he added.
Mobility of migrant workers
Migration expert Froilan Malit, Jr., a PhD Politics Candidate at University of Glasgow and managing director of Rights Corridor, said the law provides “a far broader and more complex legal and administrative framework to govern the rights, welfare, and mobility of migrant domestic workers”.
He added the reforms on domestic employment comes at a perfect time when there is an increasing number of high-income foreign residents with families who seek to live permanently in the UAE and will be in need of household workers. “Now, there is a much clearer legal framework in recruiting domestic workers,” Malit pointed out.
“Overall, the UAE’s new domestic work law reflects the government’s increasing domestic and foreign policy emphasis on regulating cross-border mobility, particularly domestic work, and their growing significance on the long-term socioeconomic development processes,” he added.
‘Thank you, UAE’
Nancy Tiburcio, 40, who has been working as a nanny in Dubai for almost a decade, had a succinct but meaningful reaction. She said: “Thank you, UAE. The government has set in clear and simple terms that we should be protected.”
What has changed
Federal Decree-Law No.9 of 2022 Concerning Domestic Workers regulates the employment of domestic workers and defines the rights and responsibilities of both the employer and employee. Here are the main provisions of the law:
Nature of work, wages
The law prevents any form of forced labour and human trafficking. Domestic workers cannot be recruited from their home country without first being informed of their nature of work, salary and other benefits.
Domestic workers must be treated in a humane way – not exposing them to violence and they must be informed of relevant authorities they must contact if their rights are violated. They should also be provided a booklet with details of their wages and other important information to ensure they are paid properly.
Recruitment or temporary employment of domestic workers is only allowed if a relevant license from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) is obtained.
Minimum age requirement
Recruitment or employment of a domestic worker under the age of 18 years is strictly prohibited, and the employer can refuse to employ a domestic worker if the recruitment agency had violated the terms agreed upon in the contract.
Evidence of fitness, health condition, psychological and occupational status of a domestic worker should be made available prior to employment.
There must be no discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, nationality, social status, or disability.
Right to keep passport
The law grants the domestic worker the right to keep their personal identification documents (including passport). It also stipulates the conditions and guidelines to grant the heirs of the domestic worker who dies during service in the UAE, along with the salary for the month in which they passed away, besides paying any other applicable dues.
No commission for recruitment agents
Recruitment offices, whether directly or through third parties, are prohibited from accepting a commission in return for obtaining work or incurring any expenses from domestic workers.
The employment contract shall be formalised based on the format approved by MoHRE, specifying the conditions related to the recruitment of the domestic worker. This should include the specified period of recruitment as well as the basic rights and obligations that the employer shall be committed to in terms of the domestic worker’s type of work and salary.
The contract should also specify the relevant financial obligations of the employer to bring the worker from their home country to the UAE, as well as the recruitment agency fees.
In the event of violations of conditions by the recruitment agency, the law stipulates that an alternative worker should be provided, or a refund of the recruitment fees should be made to the employer who would be, in this situation, entitled to ask the agency for a compensation for any potential damages due to breach of contract.
Domestic workers must be treated in a humane manner, and not exposed to danger or violence. The law specifies the obligations of the employer toward the domestic worker, including providing appropriate accommodation, food and clothing to perform their duties, as long as they work for the employer on a full-time basis not temporarily, unless otherwise agreed.
The employer must also treat the domestic worker properly, preserving their dignity and physical integrity, and pay their salary based on the agreed employment contract, aside from bearing the costs of any medical treatment for the worker, or providing health insurance in accordance with the applicable legislations.
Weekly day off
The domestic worker is entitled to a weekly rest day as determined by the executive regulations of this law. The staff may be employed on his/ her weekly rest day but in this case he/she is entitled to an alternative rest day or a cash equivalent to that day, and the domestic staff’s daily rest must not be less than 12 hours per day, subject to a minimum of at least eight continuous hours’ rest.
Not allowed to work for others
The employer cannot make the domestic staff work for others, except if this is part of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the executive order of the law and the decisions issued by MoHRE.
The employer is also prohibited from employing any domestic worker unless he or she is licenced to do so. Also, the domestic staff should not be asked to work for others or in a profession different from the nature of his work mentioned in the work permit, except under the worker’s consent and if it is one of the professions mentioned in the executive regulations of the law.
As for the obligations of the domestic worker, the worker must perform the work as per the guidance and supervision of the employer and in accordance with the employment contract.
They must provide the necessary care and not interrupt work without an acceptable excuse, in addition to considering the culture and traditions of the UAE society and adhering to public decency and the instructions of the employer in implementing the work agreed upon, unless it is in violation of the contract, the law, public morals, or it exposes them to danger or legal accountability.
The domestic worker must also respect the privacy of the workplace, preserve the employer’s property, work tools, and everything in their custody, and not use them outside work without the employer’s approval, and not work except under a work permit issued to them by the Ministry and in accordance with the applicable conditions.
The annual leave should not be less than 30 paid days for each year, and if the domestic worker is asked to work during all or part of his/her annual leave, and the period is not carried over to the following year, the employer must grant the worker the wages plus a leave allowance equal to his/her wages for the days he/she worked in that period.
The domestic worker may not be asked to work during his/her annual leave more than once during two consecutive years.
If the domestic worker wishes to travel to the home country to spend his/her annual leave, the employer shall pay the value of a two-way ticket once for every two years. If the two parties agree to terminate or not renew the employment contract after the annual leave, the employer shall pay for a one-way ticket only.
Right to transfer
The law grants the domestic worker the right to transfer to a new employer, provided that all contractual requirements specified in the contract are fulfilled, taking into account the rights of the original employer, and in accordance with the conditions and procedures in force by the ministry, and the employer shall not be bound by the expenses of the household worker returning to his/her country if he/she joins another job, in accordance with the provisions of this law and its executive regulations.
Health and safety requirements
The law obliges both the parties to the contract with the approved occupational health and safety requirements and health prevention methods in accordance with the provisions of the executive regulations of the law and any other legislation in force in the country.
Settlement of disputes
In the event of a dispute between the employer and the domestic worker and the inability to settle it amicably, it must be referred to MoHRE, which has the right to take a decision as it deems appropriate to settle the dispute amicably in accordance with the procedures stipulated in the executive regulations of this law.
If an amicable settlement is not possible within the specified period, the dispute shall be referred to the competent court.