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United Arab Emirates: New Law to Support Domestic Workers

(Nov. 9, 2017) On September 26, 2017, Sheikh Khalifa, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), issued Federal Law No. 10 of 2017.  The new Law is aimed at strengthening the legal measures for the protection of domestic service workers. (President Issues Law on Support Service Workers, Cabinet of the UAE website (Sept. 26, 2017).) It covers the role of recruitment and employment agencies, standards for labor contracts, employer and employee obligations, inspections, penalties, time off, end of service indemnity, termination of contracts, and settlement of disputes. The Law also requires that labor contracts define the rights and duties of the domestic workers. Finally, the Law asserts that domestic service workers must be treated equally by their employers. It bans employers from discriminating against their domestic service workers on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, or social class. (Law on Support Service Workers, UAE Cabinet website (last visited Nov. 8, 2017) (in Arabic).)

The Law consists of 41 articles. It identifies 19 types of domestic service workers, including: domestic workers qualified to sail ships, guards, parking valets, industrial workers, farmers, gardeners, domestic servants, cooks, nannies, special trainers, nurses, and drivers. The Law gives the right to employers to reject hiring a worker if he or she does not meet the requirements cited in the labor contract. (President Issues Law on Support Service Workers, supra.)

The Recruitment Offices’ Obligations

Article 3 of the Law stipulates that recruitment offices must be: 1) licensed by the authorities of the UAE, 2) owned and managed by a UAE citizen, and 3) comply with the implementing regulation of this Law in order to operate in the UAE. Article 5 requires recruitment offices to return the worker to his/her home country upon the termination of the labor contract. (Law on Support Service Workers, art. 3.)

Wage Protection, Vacation, and Rest-Days

According to article 7 of the Law, the labor contract of a domestic service worker must include the following items: the nature of his/her work, the amount of salary, the method of the payment of the salary, the number of days off, the number of breaks per day, and circumstances leading to termination of services. (Id.) 

Employer’s and Worker’s Obligations

The employer must  provide the domestic service worker with the following: 1) medical insurance; 2) appropriate accommodation and three daily meals; 3) decent clothes suitable for the work environment; 4) a safe work atmosphere; and 5) fair worker’s compensation in cases of work injury. (Id. art. 15.) Domestic service worker have the right not to comply with the employer’s instructions if those instructions violate the UAE laws and traditions. (Id. art. 16.) Domestic service workers, on the other hand, are prohibited from disclosing any confidential work-related information of the employer. (Id.)

In regard to conflict resolution, the Law states that in the event that the employer and worker have a disagreement, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization will adjudicate the dispute. The adjudication process will take two weeks. (Id. art. 21.)

The circumstances under which the services of the domestic service workers will be terminated are: 1) when the contract ends, unless it is renewed in accordance with the Law’s provisions; 2) upon the death of either the employer or the worker; or 3) when the worker is unable to work due to permanent disability. (Id. art. 22.) Both the employer and the service worker have the right to terminate the contract unilaterally if one party fails to fulfill his/her obligations towards the other. (Id. art. 23.)

Other Developments and Reaction to the Law

Saqr Ghobash, the UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization, said that the Law is based on international standards regarding labor issues and provides legal protection for all concerned parties. Ghobash added that his Ministry is about to publish the executive regulations for the Law as well as models of labor contracts that could be used by employers. (President Issues Law on Support Service Workers, supra.)

In addition, as a result of the adoption of the Law, the Dubai Labour Court has designated a new panel called the Labor Judicial Circuit to review and decide cases lodged by domestic service workers. The court is expected to hear approximately 1,500 cases annually pertaining to service worker disputes. (Panel Of Dubai Judges Set Up to Tackle Cases After Domestic Workers Law Change, NATIONAL (Oct. 9, 2017).)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has praised the new Law as a step forward that will place the UAE in conformity with the international convention on domestic workers of the International Labour Organization. (UAE: Domestic Workers’ Rights Bill A Step Forward, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (June 7, 2017).) HRW also opined that the Law will enable an enormous number of employees to be legally protected, which is the most significant improvement in labor issues in the past several years in the UAE. (UAE: Domestic Workers’ Rights Bill A Step Forward, supra.) 

Prepared by Ammar Alsallumi, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of George Sadek, Legal Research Analyst.