By Samir Salama, Gulf News, 05, Mar 2007
Abu Dhabi: A new unified contract to regulate the rights and duties of domestic workers will be enforced from April 1, it was announced on Sunday.
The contract will improve the quality of life of domestic workers who constitute a large segment of the UAE’s workforce, said Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior.
A specialised unit, within the departments of Naturalisation and Residency across the UAE, has also been established to arbitrate conflicts between domestic workers and their employers.
"Under the new contract to regulate the relationship between domestic workers and their sponsors, if disputes are not settled within two weeks, cases will be referred to the courts. However, a worker's legal rights will be disregarded if he or she absconds," said Mohammad Al Merri, Director of the Department of Naturalisation and Residency in Dubai.
Measures, he said, will also be taken to curb the violation of workers' rights and other illegal activity, including taking fees or commissions from these workers. "These are coordinated with the consulates of the countries where the majority of workers come from."
The contract will be valid for two years from the start of actual work and can be extended by mutual consent. It includes conditions governing vacation, air tickets and medical care. It also details the procedures to be taken should either party wish to break the contract before the end of its period or if an employee chooses to be reimbursed instead of taking his/her vacation or flight tickets.
The contract, Al Merri said, requires that domestic workers commit to performing the duties and responsibilities associated with the job.
"Special clauses are included to prevent the employer from forcing the worker to undertake hazardous or unethical tasks, or assigning them to work for another party."
Under the contract, the employer must assist domestic workers with transferring their salaries through the UAE's bank system, facilitate communication with their families back home, and sending letters – without reading them – at the expense of the worker.
"The contract regulates the nature of work and rest periods and provides for the worker's right to proper healthcare, in line with government rules.
"It also states that salaries should be agreed upon by both parties," added Al Merri, who also heads the committee responsible for drafting the contract.
The first article of the new contract specifies the monthly salary and other perks including food and beverage.
It also states the salary must be paid in full at the end of every month. Both parties must sign a salary slip — in Arabic and English — each month, which will be kept by the employer as a record of payments.
In event of death
In the event of the death of the domestic worker, the contract states that it is the employer's responsibility to repatriate the body of the deceased and his/her personal effects to the home country as soon as possible, in coordination with the authorities concerned.
Three original copies of the contract – in Arabic and English – must be signed by both parties. Each party will receive one copy and the third will be filed with the Department of Naturalisation. Al Merri said the employer will be responsible for having the contract authenticated by the Department of Naturalisation.
The contract states workers will be eligible for one month's paid leave annually during the entire period of the contract. If the worker does not go on leave, he/she must be compensated with one month's additional salary.
If it is mutually agreed between the worker and the employer that the leave is not taken, the worker is entitled to receive the cash value of a return ticket.
At the expiry of the contract, the employer will have to provide the worker with a one-way ticket to his/her home country. If the contract is renewed, the employer must provide a return ticket so that the worker can resume employment.
Salient features of the contract
A new unified contract to regulate the rights and duties of domestic workers will be enforced from April 1.
The contract will improve the quality of life of domestic workers who constitute a large segment of the UAE's workforce, said Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior.
Features of the contract:
– Contract valid for two years
– Three copies of contract in Arabic and English, with each party having one and a third with the Residency Department
– A month’s paid leave in two years
– Unit at Residency Department to arbitrate disputes
– One-way ticket at end of contract
– If the contract is ended by the sponsor before its expiry, a ticket and a month’s salary shall be paid to the worker. If it is ended by the worker, he or she will be charged for the ticket.