United Arab Emirates: New Rights For Domestic Workers In The GCC

Last Updated: 17 November 2017
Article by Sara Khoja and Sarit Thomas

Regulating work in private households is a difficult and sensitive issue which historically has not fallen within the remit of the Labour Ministries in the GCC. However, over the past two years, with the international focus on migrant labour, new legislation empowering the Labour Ministries to regulate this segment of the private sector has been passed. This article provides an overview of the new regulations to a sector that is employed by millions in private households to undertake important roles such as caring for children and the elderly, driving, cleaning, cooking and other tasks.

There are at least 67 million domestic workers in the world, representing a significant part of the global workforce1.  The exploitation of domestic workers can partly be attributed to gaps in national labour and employment legal protections and reflects discrimination along the lines of sex, race and caste.

The ILO's Domestic Workers Convention (2011, No. 189) sets out basic labour rights for domestic workers.  This Convention tries to improve the recognition of the economic and social value of domestic work and to address the existing exclusions of domestic workers from labour and social protection.  To date, 23 countries have ratified the ILO Convention and a number of other countries have introduced domestic legislation extending the basic labour rights of domestic workers in their country in alignment with the ILO Convention. 

Whilst not being signatories to the ILO Convention, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Qatar have each introduced legislative and policy enactments to improve the rights of domestic workers.  This article provides a comparative overview of the legislation in these jurisdictions and gives an insight into regional market trends.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE has introduced Federal Law No. 10 of 2017 on Support Service Workers (UAE Domestic Workers Law), which came into force on 12 August 2017.  The UAE Domestic Workers Law affords domestic workers fundamental working rights, which previously were absent.  The law applies to such individuals working at the temporary or permanent residence of their employer, including private farms and captures 19 occupations, including housemaid, cook, gardener, driver and more unusual roles such as herdsman, falconer and private agricultural engineer.

Executive Regulations under the UAE Domestic Workers Law have not yet been published, which are likely to expand on the provisions of the law.  The law introduces a number of minimum statutory entitlements and additional requirements for employees (set out below). 

Qatar

Qatar issued its Domestic Workers Law No 15 of 2017 (Qatar Domestic Workers Law) on 22 August 2017, with a view to introducing a regulatory platform for the protection of some 173,742 domestic workers employed in the country (according to the government's 2016 labour force statistics report). 

The new law defines domestic worker as an individual "who performs house work under the management and supervision of the employer in return for a wage" and goes on to provide examples of the types of occupations that would be captured by such definition, including; driver, nanny, cook and gardener.  The law does not appear to provide a list of occupations in the same manner that the UAE Domestic Workers Law appears to do.

It is expected that further implementing regulations will be issued which may provide further clarity with respect to the work's minimum entitlements.  For example, whilst the new law provides that employers are required to refrain from obliging workers to work during any sick leave, the law does not prescribe a minimum sick leave period.  Currently, the law sets out the minimum statutory entitlements (set out below).

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

In August 2013 Saudi published Ministerial Decision No. 310 of 1434 regulating the employment of domestic workers.  In February 2017 Saudi issued new Ministerial Decision No. 605 of 1434 permitting domestic workers to transfer between employers in certain circumstances (together the KSA Domestic Workers Law).  Domestic workers under the 'KSA Domestic Workers Law' includes both male and female household workers, private chauffeurs, gardeners, and security guards.  The law sets out certain minimum worker entitlements and obligations on the parties (set out below).

Minimum Statutory Entitlements

Provision UAE Qatar KSA
Working hours Clarification expected in the Executive Regulations 10 hours per day (excluding rest breaks) unless the parties agree otherwise -
Daily Break At least 12 hours per day* 10 hours per day (excluding rest breaks) unless the parties agree otherwise At least 9 hours per day
Rest Day 1 day per week* 1 day per week 1 day per week
Wages Monthly and no later than 10 days from due date Month end and no later than the 3rd day of the following month Islamic calendar month end, unless contractually agreed otherwise
Probation 6 months Term subject to a decision by the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (the Ministry) 90 days
Annual Leave 30 days per annum 3 weeks per annum 1 month every 2 years
Sick Leave 30 days per annum - 30 days per annum
Airfare Return flight once every two years Return flight once every two years -
End of service Gratuity 14 days per year of service 3 weeks per year of service 1 month wage for every 4 consecutive years of service

*Further clarification expected in the Executive Regulations

Additional Obligations and Worker Protection Provisions

Provision UAE Qatar KSA
Employment Contract An approved Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MHRE) contract must be executed for a maximum term of two year, renewable A Ministry certified contract must be executed in Arabic A written employment contract (in Arabic) must be executed
Basic needs Worker must be given appropriate accommodation, medical, food and supplies Workers must be given accommodation, food and healthcare Workers must be given suitable accommodation and healthcare
Discrimination Discrimination against workers prohibited on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion, political ideology, nationality and social origin - -
Abuse Prohibition on any verbal, physical sexual harassment and forced labour.  Employer to treat the worker well and keep the worker safe Worker to be treated well, with dignity and not be exposed to physical or mental abuse Employer to treat the worker with dignity and keep the worker safe
Age Limits Workers must be between 18-60 years of age (subject to maximum exceptions) Workers must be between 18-60 years (subject to maximum exceptions) -
Workplace Injury Worker entitled to compensation for any injury sustained whilst in work Compensation for workplace injury as per the Labour Law -
Transfer of Employment Not detailed.  Will be as per immigration laws Not detailed.  Will be as per immigration laws Domestic workers are permitted to transfer their employment to a new employer in certain circumstances
Termination rights Either party may terminate the contract in specified circumstances Either party may terminate the contract in specified circumstances Either party may terminate the contract in specified circumstances
Dispute Resolution MHRE has the power to inspect the premises in certain circumstances, mediate disputes, and attend to complaints made by either party against the other As per the Labour Law Ministry of Labour and Social Development will attend to complaints made by either party against the other
Limitation Period 6 months limitation period with respect to any claims arising following termination of the contract 1 year limitation period with respect to any claims arising following termination of the contract -
Penalties Between AED 10,000 -200,000 fine and/or up to 6 months jail sentence (subject to more severe penalties under any other laws) QAR 5,000 – 10,000 (subject to more severe penalties under any other laws) Employer may be subject to a fine between SAR 2,000 - 5,000 and/or be banned from sponsoring domestic workers for a period of between 1 – 3 years (subject to more severe penalties under any other laws).  Domestic worker may be subject to a fine of SAR 2,000 and a work ban (subject to more severe penalties under any other laws)

Worker Obligations

Provision UAE Qatar KSA
Duties To diligently perform their duties, in accordance with the employer's instructions To diligently perform their duties and not to harm children and the elderly within the household To diligently perform their duties, in accordance with the employer's instructions, not to harm children and the elderly within the household and maintain the employer's belongings and property.
Privacy & Confidentiality Preserve the employer's privacy and maintain any confidential secrets Preserve the employer's privacy and maintain any secrets Preserve the employer's privacy and maintain any secrets

Domestic Workers Recruitment Offices – UAE only

The UAE Domestic Workers Law imposes a number of obligations on domestic workers recruitment offices, including the requirement for the owner and the manager (who must be a UAE national) to have good behaviour and conduct. Taking commission, for securing a position, from the worker is prohibited. 

Recruitment offices are required to comply with certain obligations, including; providing the worker with accurate details of the role prior to recruitment, providing temporary accommodation as necessary, educating the worker in terms of the worker's rights and complaint avenue and ensuring that the worker is treated well and is not vulnerable to violence.  They are also obliged to bear the worker's repatriation costs, provide a substitute worker to the employer in certain circumstances, as provided for under the law and repay certain monies, which the executive regulations are expected to set out, in circumstances where the worker terminates the contract following completion of the probationary period without cause or an acceptable reason.

Regional Trends

The new statutory provisions do seek to address the imbalance of domestic workers rights and legal protection and provide a positive step in tackling exploitation of this vulnerable group of workers.

An additional recent development is the increased awareness of companies and individuals to consider their responsibility and the role they can play in the employment and treatment of domestic workers.  We have seen companies start to look at their own employee's employment of domestic workers from a supply chain and reputation risk perspective, with internal policies (akin to codes of conduct) being created to govern and encourage employees in their employment and treatment of domestic workers.  These corporate measures can be placed within the wider international context of laws such as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, the California Supply Chains Act 2010 and, the French law from February 2017 on corporate human rights and environmental due diligence on supply chains.

Footnote

1. The International labour Organisation (ILO), 'Global estimates on migrant workers', 2015

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Sara Khoja
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions