Cleaning up their act, or just getting their hands dirtier? New GCC domestic worker law hoped to take effect next year
Bahrain is expected to enforce a unified GCC law to regulate domestic workers next year, said a senior government official, adding that a team from the Gulf countries was working on finalising the draft law.
The legislation aims to protect the rights of workers by preventing confiscation of their passports and ensuring their monthly salaries are paid on time.
It will cover housemaids, cleaners, nannies, cooks, butlers, drivers and gardeners.
"The set of unified legislationis presently being studied by all Gulf states so they can make additions according to their requirements in order to have a model that suits the respective countries," added Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary, speaking to the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
He explained that under the new unified job contract, domestic workers will have a one-day weekend and proper accommodation, food, clothes, visa charges and an air ticket.
They will also be given a three-month probationary period during which time they or their sponsor can cancel their contract for specific reasons.
The job contracts will also be automatically renewed if there are no objections by either party and can only be cancelled at least three days before they are due to expire.
Salaries will have to be transferred to the employee's bank account or by cash with the recipient signing a receipt.
The law also prohibits housemaids to work for other families for money or reveal family secrets of the people they are working for.
Al Dossary said he discussed new GCC regulations during a meeting in Sri Lanka between Gulf states and Asian countries.
"It was during this meeting that the group of Asian countries decided to draft their own contract for domestic workers," he said.
"The plan now is to receive the final draft approved by the Asian countries that will be reviewed by Gulf states.
"The unified draft for domestic workers being studied by Gulf countries will be similar to our Asian counterparts. The drafts from both sides are being prepared and once finalised it will be discussed during the GCC labour ministers' meeting in Kuwait next year."
Al Dossary added that Bahrain drew praise from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) attending the meeting in Colombo for having laws in place to protect foreign workers.
"The ILO delegation praised Bahrain's new Labour Law that has separate provision specially related to domestic workers," he said.
In April last year, the Shura Council approved the new Labour Law that includes tougher punishments for companies that flout health and safety standards, grants private sector workers 30 days of annual leave and increases the length of maternity leave.
The GDN earlier reported that Bahrain issued a total of 33,409 work visas for housemaids and another 5,150 for male domestic workers last year.
A total of 1,674 runaway cases were also recorded. Officials said there were more than 50,000 domestic workers in Bahrain, while local rights group say the number exceeds 70,000.