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Mon 25 Sep 2017 02:35 PM

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UAE set to launch new law to protect domestic workers

Ministry of Human Resources announces that the law will come into effect in two months

UAE set to launch new law to protect domestic workers
(NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A new law giving more protection to domestic workers in the UAE will be implemented before the end of this year, it was announced on Monday.

Following assent by the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ministry of Human Resources announced that the law will come into effect in two months time, after being published in the official gazette.

The Domestic Labour Law, which passed through the Federal National Council in June, ensures that, for the first time, all workers in the UAE are covered by employment legislation, with responsibility for its implementation being overseen by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the regulatory authority for the UAE’s labour market.

The Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, Saqr Ghobash, said: “The Domestic Labour Law aligns our legislation with international standards and reflects the UAE’s commitment to defending the rights of workers across all sectors of the economy.

"Domestic employees make a significant contribution to the UAE’s social and economic system and it is absolutely right that they are afforded full protection under the law.

“The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation is committed to maintaining a labour market that is fair, flexible and attractive to people from around the world.”

Domestic workers account for around 750,000 individuals in the UAE’s labour force, representing approximately 25 percent of expatriate workers.

The new law establishes the principle of informed consent, ensuring that workers are aware of their contract terms prior to departure from their home country. This is in line with the UAE’s regulations regarding the standardisation of contracts, to ensure that prospective workers are not enticed into a cycle of debt bondage through the promise of employment terms that subsequently prove, on arrival in the UAE, to be different from those offered.

Under the law, the rights and privileges afforded to domestic employees include minimum daily rest hours, paid annual leave, weekly rest days, and access to dispute resolution. These are in line with minimums required under law for employees in other sectors of the UAE labour market.

The Domestic Labour Law also prohibits the employment of minors under the age of 18 in domestic law, includes anti-discrimination clauses, and reinforces existing laws against sexual harassment, trafficking and exposure to physical harm.

It also imposes much stricter regulation of recruitment agencies is key to widening the protections afforded to domestic workers.

The Domestic Labour Law restricts the recruitment of overseas domestic workers to UAE-registered agencies, prohibits the payment of commission in exchange for employment, and aims to tackle potential abuse of workers in the care of agencies.