Willl Bahrain follow Kuwait and introduce domestic staff rights?

Published July 12th, 2015 - 12:09 GMT

Bahrain could follow Kuwait’s lead by adopting a dedicated law that protects the rights of domestic staff, a report said.

Legislation passed by Kuwait’s National Assembly last month grants domestic workers the right to one day off a week, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour working day with rest and an end-of-service benefit equivalent to one month’s pay for each year served, among other things, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

The new law will be among issues discussed in December during a regional summit of GCC Labour Ministers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary told the GDN that officials here would monitor its implementation and could introduce a similar bill.

“We could definitely have a national law which will exclusively protect the rights of domestic workers,” Al Dossary told the GDN.

“As we know, the government and the ministry are always open to initiatives which will mean better living conditions for workers, especially domestic workers, to whom we usually have limited access.

“But it will be after monitoring the implementation of the law in Kuwait, which will be reviewed in the next meeting of the GCC Labour Ministers, scheduled to be held in December.”

Al Dossary stressed that Bahrain had already taken steps to protect the rights of domestic workers, becoming the first Gulf country to include them in the Labour Law.

“We must acknowledge the fact that Bahrain was the first GCC state to include domestic workers in its Labour Law,” he said.

“This is a good move from Kuwait, especially with the high number of cases related to domestic workers that they have recorded in the past.

“Compared to that situation Bahrain is much better, but it is ideal to have a law that ensures enforceable labour rights for domestic workers.”

Bahrain’s 2012 Labour Law grants domestic workers annual vacations, as well as access to mediation in labour disputes.

However, it does not afford other basic protections such as weekly rest days, a minimum wage and limits on working hours.

Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) chairwoman Marietta Dias welcomed any move that would improve the rights of the country’s domestic workforce.

Latest Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) figures state there were 108,747 domestic workers in Bahrain at the end of April, 65,886 of them women and 42,861 men.

They account for 15.6 per cent of the country’s total workforce, but the number in Bahrain is much lower than Kuwait where there are an estimated 660,000 domestic workers.

“Of course we have a different situation in Bahrain, but definitely it is a good start in Kuwait, which could be followed here as well,” said Dias.

“But if we do it in Bahrain, we have to consider that domestic employees should be allowed to change jobs at the end of two years or the contract, without any repercussions.  

“When there is a domestic worker abuse case, the worker must have the right to make a complaint without the hassles of them becoming victims (of the legal system).

“Now the situation is that as soon they raise a complaint, usually they have to do it by escaping from the house they work in because of abuse, and immediately they are branded as ‘runaways’.

“This should not be the case. They can be called runaways only if they leave the house and are working elsewhere, not if they go to the police station.

“The law must ensure that workers are not penalised for complaining about abuse to authorities.

“The rest of the clauses in the law, like off days, working hours, rest period, vacation and so on must be part of legislation.”

 

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