Bahrain plans law to protect domestic workers
Manama, March 11, 2012
Bahrain’s Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) is in the final stages of preparing a unified contract that will outline recruitment conditions for domestic workers, their rights and duties, said a senior official.
'A unified contract for domestic workers stating proper terms and conditions including their rights is a must,' said LMRA chief executive officer Ausamah Abdulla Al Absi.
'We want to safeguard the rights of domestic workers to ensure they are guaranteed decent work and living conditions.'
Employers and manpower agencies will be bound by the new policy, which is being regulated by the LMRA.
Domestic employees including maids, cleaners, nannies, cooks, butlers, drivers and gardeners are not covered by Bahrain's Labour Law and face problems such as low wages, abuse and discrimination.
A draft of the contract will be released next month for parties concerned to discuss the regulations and rights of expatriate workers in Bahrain.
'I have to call for a public consultation according to the law when introducing a new regulation,' he said. 'All the relevant government agencies, embassies and non-governmental organisations will be asked to provide their feedback which will be reviewed by our team.”
'Domestic workers are not covered by the Labour Law but fall under civil contract which is a loose term. So basically, this balanced unified contract will contain basic rights of workers according to international treaties that are not subject to a debate.'
Al Absi said the document would provide guidelines for employers and organisations to prevent exploitation.
'I do not believe abuse is a widespread phenomenon,' he said.
'There are certain cases that fall outside the parameter of the law that need to be addressed. I have to assume decent human behaviour but the idea is to make sure this assumption is not abused. In short, I want basic human decency for all and this is what I strive for with my team.'
He explained how this would also solve growing problems between employers and housemaids.
'Job expectations by domestic workers and employers in such cases will be solved with clear responsibilities.'
The first phase of the plan involved collecting feedback from government bodies including Health, Labour, Human Rights and Social Development, and Interior ministries.
The compiled suggestions will later be posted on LMRA's official website lmra.bh.
'There will be areas which were not addressed by us. This is important for us because we can see how we can improve ourselves.'
Once the new document is approved by the government, national laws and regulations would require all household workers to receive a written contract containing minimum terms and conditions of employment and their rights. This would be agreed upon and signed before crossing national borders.
Bahraini households rely heavily on housemaids mostly from Asian countries, who are supplied by local and foreign recruitment agencies.
Bahrain and other GCC states voted to adopt a Domestic Workers Convention at the 100th session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, last June.
The convention ensures the rights of millions of domestic workers and formalises their employment.
It also helps to improve their working conditions and recognises their right to organise through unions.
Bahrainis and residents also agreed on specific health and social rights for domestic workers that are in line with international human rights agreements, during the expatriate session of last year's National Dialogue.
According to the latest report by the Bahrain Human Rights Society, there were 79,212 domestic workers employed in Bahraini households in 2009.– TradeArabia News Service