A new domestic workers contract that came into force on Sunday will stop employers and agencies from cheating maids, legal experts have said.
The new government-approved contract will help stop “double contracts” in which a worker signs one in their home country only to discover that he or she has to sign a contract for a lower salary when they land in the UAE.
The new contract will also guarantee one day off a week and 14 days paid leave.
The Ministry of Interior announced the new amended domestic worker contract went into effect yesterday after months of negotiations with embassies and lawyers.
Lawyer Michael Barney Almazar, of Gulf Law legal firm, welcomed the provision that only the contract signed by a maid in her home country will be considered valid.
“Most Filipina domestic helpers will execute an agreement in the Philippines with a certain salary only to find out that they need to execute another contract in UAE with lower pay,” Almazar said. “I believe this has been addressed by the new law since it will require the amount of compensation in UAE to be agreed upon prior to the helper’s entry to UAE.”
Almazar frequently holds free legal rights clinics at the Filipino embassy for low paid workers, so that they will know their rights.
Courts will enforce the new contract. If a maid feels she is being cheated, she can take her employer to a labour court, which will assess the treatment under the terms of the new contract.
According to a legal source very familiar with the drafting of the new contract, it includes a weekly day off for each maid, annual leave of 14 days, sick leave of up to 30 days a year and the employee must be paid before the 10th of the following month.
The employment agency is also responsible for the repatriation costs of sending the worker home should they fail to meet the employer’s competency standards.
The contract was largely welcomed by Oeydis Widmark, who has one Filipina maid, Desiree, whom she helped save from a congenital heart defect with a 7DAYS fundraising campaign.
“It seems very good, the question is whether it will be followed up for people who hire their maids privately, not through an agency. That is how we hired. There needs to be follow-ups to ensure they are protected also,” she said.
Sarah, an Ethiopian maid recently before the Abu Dhabi courts because of an argument with her employer, said the new contract sounded very positive.
“But will they be serious about it?” she said. “Already there is a law not to keep passports, but everyone knows that bosses keep passports. So if it is real, it is a very good thing.”