In what appears to be a response to complaints from some residents about hiring delays, Qatar officials has released a set of tips and regulations for sponsoring domestic workers.
The detailed rules say that it is mandatory for new recruitment contracts to be approved by the government.
The recently formed Ministry of Administrative Development and Labor and Social Affairs published the regulations on Twitter earlier this week. It’s not clear if they are new measures or a reminder of existing rules.
As it stands, some residents said they’re unaware of some of the rights outlined by the ministry:
— ✨أم عبدالله✨ (@Najat_Alsalahi) March 19, 2016
Translation: (This) is very important because recruitment agencies refuse to give clients a copy of the contract, claiming that the contract only pertains to them and the ministry.
However, the ministry’s announcement emphasizes the rights of the sponsors who are hiring domestic workers through recruitment agencies.
What to know
It specifies the conditions under which one may “return” a domestic worker to a recruitment agency, such as failing the medical exam that all expats undergo upon arriving in Qatar.
Additionally, it highlights that employers are given a three-month trial period with a new domestic worker, during which time they may cancel their agreement with the recruiting agency and request a replacement at no extra cost.
The rules also said residents are entitled to compensation if there is a delay in the domestic worker’s arrival to Qatar – an issue that’s prompted an increasing number of complaints from Qatar citizens and residents, according to Al Raya.
But at least one resident said the provisions don’t go far enough:
— اﻻصـــايل ♡ (@AL_A9ayel) March 27, 2016
Translation: What’s the solution for the absconding of domestic workers?
Would-be employers are also urged to carefully review the qualifications and résumés of a prospective domestic worker before hiring them.
This could help reduce any conflict that arises between domestic workers and their employers over unmet expectations.
Last year, human rights experts found that some recruitment agencies promised to provide employees with specific skills, such as first aid or the ability to speak English fluently.
In practice, some of the women who sign up to work in the Gulf may actually have no experience or interest in taking care of children or cooking, for example, and thought they were taking a job that only involved cleaning.
Domestic workers, who also include drivers and gardeners, are not covered by Qatar’s labor law, though human rights advocates have urged that this be changed.
Observers said this leaves the group particularly vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and gives them little legal recourse.
Though domestic helpers are not covered by the labor law, some said one of the requirements publicized this week – mandating that recruitment contracts be approved by the government – has the potential to give domestic workers an additional layer of protection.
“The fact that they have to go through the labor ministry is a good step,” Gonar Musor, the deputy head of mission at the Philippines embassy in Qatar, told Doha News. “It’s a big step for Qatar to recognize domestic workers as part of the expat workforce.”
Currently, the relationship between the recruiting agency, domestic worker and employer is “quite ad hoc,” said Vani Saraswathi, an advisor with Migrant-Rights.org, which co-produced a guide for Qatar residents hiring domestic workers earlier this year.
“Registering a contract with the labor department is definitely a step in the (right) direction,” she told Doha News.
However, she pointed out that there’s no mention of the contract containing provisions such as a minimum wage, a maximum number of work hours, a day of rest or holiday time.
Some of these stipulations were supposed to be part of a GCC-wide common domestic worker contract that was debated for more than a year before being abandoned in late 2014.
At the time, ministers said it would be up to individual countries to draft their own measures. Since then, however, there’s been no public indication on the part of the Qatar government that changes are planned.