UAE residents can sponsor a housemaid if they have a minimum monthly salary of Dh6,000, or Dh5,000 plus company-provided accommodation, are married and have immediate family members under their sponsorship Image Credit: Supplied

Manama: Gulf countries have agreed on the provisions of a unified Gulf contract for domestic helpers.

“The blueprint of the contract sets the daily working hours at eight, limits overtime to two hours, requires the provision of decent accommodation, and stipulates the right for days off,” Jamal Al Dosari, the director general of the public authority for workforce in Kuwait, said following the meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) labour undersecretaries in Kuwait City.

“It bans employers from keeping the passports of their employees, ensures the freedom of domestic helpers to move or live outside the home of the employer and to travel at any time. It also commits employers to provide air tickets for the helpers at the end of the contract,” Al Dosari said, quoted by Kuwait News Agency (Kuna).

The single contract will take force after it is approved by the GCC labour ministers, he added on Monday.

The issue of expatriates working in the six GCC countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — has been a hot international topic, due mainly to the existence of the controversial sponsorship system.

Under the system, foreigners cannot work in the Gulf unless they are sponsored by an employer. They cannot move on to another job or leave the country without their sponsors’ approval.

Employers argued that without the “regulatory system”, their businesses would be affected as employees tend to abscond or switch jobs even though they had invested money in bringing them into the country and, quite often, training them.

However, the GCC countries have been taking new measures as a compromise between the two sides.

According to Kuna, Bahrain’s Labour Undersecretary Sabah Al Dosari called on any foreign labour organisations or human rights groups that could have any negative remarks or observations on labour-related situations to present them to the concerned GCC country or refer them to the World Labour Organisation.

“We in the GCC welcome the foreign workers and we do appreciate their contributions to the development of our countries,” he said, quoted by the news agency.