DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates said on 4 March that it would introduce a standard contract for domestic workers and their employers, including salaries, holidays and working conditions, from 1 April.
Conditions of work for thousands of domestic workers, mainly from Southeast Asia and Africa, have often been condemned by non-governmental organisations which say abuses include unpaid or withheld wages and excessive working hours.
Interior Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahayan said the new contract would improve the lives of the UAE’s expatriate residents, particularly domestic workers who constitute a large segment of the workforce.
The departments of Immigration and Naturalisation, throughout the UAE, will enforce the contract when issuing new visas for domestic workers.
The first article of the contract specifies the monthly salary, which it states must be paid in full at the end of every month.
Valid for two years from the start of actual work but able to be extended, the contract includes conditions governing holidays, air tickets and medical care, including the employer’s responsibility to repatriate the body of any worker who dies.
“The contract stresses the importance of regulating work, the nature of work involved, and the need for clearly defined rest periods. It also states the importance of providing proper healthcare and states that salaries should also be agreed upon by both parties,” said Mohammed al-Marri, director of the Naturalisation and Residency department in Dubai.
It also says it is the employer’s responsibility to help domestic workers transfer salaries through the UAE’s bank system and ease communication with families.
Domestic workers have to agree to perform the duties and responsibilities associated with the job, although clauses prevent an employer from forcing the worker to undertake hazardous or unethical tasks, or assigning them work for another party.
“The core of the new contract is transparency in the relationship between the employer and the worker, while ensuring that both parties’ rights are protected,” said Marri.