Qatar’s Cabinet approves draft law to protect domestic workers

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Officials has revived legislation that would provide legal protection to Qatar’s nannies, drivers and cooks by creating a common contract for domestic workers.

There is currently no law regulating domestic help in Qatar.

These workers are not required to sign contracts with their employers and cannot file complaints against them with the Ministry of Labor.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The Cabinet approved new legislation to change that yesterday, according to QNA.

It said the bill would define the rights and duties of house help such as maids, drivers and gardeners, and “regulate the relationship” between these employees and their sponsors.

The move comes six months after Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) recommended that legislation be issued to change the status quo.

Stalled law

Qatar has been discussing a draft law for several years. But officials put it on the back burner in 2014 after the GCC began talking about passing unified domestic workers legislation.

That agreement would have included one day off a week, the right to live outside the employer’s home, a six-hour working day with paid overtime and the right to travel at any time.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, the legislation stalled in 2015 in part over disagreements about whether it was too generous.

Rights groups criticized the development, saying a lack of legal protection leaves Qatar’s 84,000 female house helpers particularly vulnerable.

Some have been subjected to excessive working hours, late and unpaid wages, restrictions on movement and sexual assaults, groups have pointed out.

Possible provisions

QNA did not provide details of the upcoming law’s terms and conditions.

But when it was talked about in 2011, it said domestic helpers:

  • Must sign a contract with his/her employer, with the format and rules to be issued by the Labor Ministry;
  • Are entitled to free housing and food as well as breaks during an eight-hour workday;
  • Are free to practice their religion;
  • Must receive proper medical care when sick and cannot be forced to work during illness;
  • Are entitled to three weeks of annual leave;
  • Can quit at any time;
  • Must receive two weeks of basic pay as end-of-service benefits for each year worked for employer;
  • Are not responsible for paying for their visas or medical testing;
  • Must be at least 18 years old to work as a domestic helper;
  • Must be employed through a licensed manpower agency;
  • Cannot be asked to do any work other than those specified in her contract, or work that takes a heavy physical toil or is “below a woman’s dignity;” and
  • Are entitled to have their sponsor meet all expenses in the event of their death, including transporting the body home.

However, even at that time recruitment agencies expressed skepticism about enforcement of the law.

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