By Courtney Trenwith
Non-criminal disputes between foreign domestic workers and Saudi employers to be dealt with via mediation
Saudi Arabia has established a mediation panel to deal with the high number of non-criminal disputes between domestic workers and their employers.
There are up to 2m domestic workers, including maids, drivers and gardeners, in the kingdom, mostly from southern Asia and Africa.
The new panel will deal with non-criminal disputes such as pay, working hours, working conditions and employee behaviour and aim to resolve the issues via mediation.
If parties can’t agree, the panel judges will determine a verdict either unanimously or majority rules.
The new dispute resolution method was established as part of a new legislation regulating domestic work, implemented earlier this month.
Workers will now be given nine hours of free time daily, one day off per week, one-month paid holiday every two years and sick leave, while their probation period is limited to three months.
However, the law also allows for domestic workers to be fired or penalised if they do not respect Islam, obey Saudi law or “carry out their duties perfectly”.
They also must obey their employer and his family members, protect the family’s property, preserve family secrets and not harm children or elderly members, the law reportedly states.
Employers must pay the worker’s salary at the end of each month and provide suitable accommodation and end-of-service benefits after four years of employment.
Employers who break the law will be fined SAR2,000 ($533) and be banned from recruiting another domestic help for a year. Workers who violate their contract also will be fined SAR2000, be banned from working in the kingdom and forfeit their repatriation costs.
Labour exporting countries have long called for better protection of their citizens working in Saudi Arabia.
In some of the worst situations, governments have banned their citizens from working in the kingdom, while Saudi Arabia has retaliated by freezing the issuance of working visas to nationals of countries it is in dispute with.