Browsing 'domestic workers' News

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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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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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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.

Thoughts?

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Dimitris Papazimouris/Flickr

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The majority of domestic workers in Qatar make about QR1,571 ($431) a month, according to a new survey by an online recruitment firm.

That’s on par with Saudi Arabia and more than in Kuwait. But household staff make marginally more in the UAE – AED1,592 ($433) a month.

The HelperChoice Domestic Worker Salary Survey Middle East 2016 was released this week.

Average domestic worker's salary in Qatar

HelperChoice

Average domestic worker’s salary in Qatar

To calculate its figures, HelperChoice used data from around 2,000 recent job advertisements in the region that were placed on its website.

The averages reflect starting salaries. They do not include other costs usually shouldered by employers, including agency fees, flights home and medical expenses.

Still, in Qatar, a QR1,500 monthly salary equates to about QR8 ($2) an hour, assuming someone is working eight-hour days, six days a week.

The reality though is that many of the country’s more than 84,000 household employees work longer hours.

Poor pay

According to a report published by a government ministry earlier this year, domestic staff in Qatar work longer hours than most people here and are among the poorest paid in the country.

Using 2014 data, the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics (MDPS) found that household staff worked an average of 57 hours each week.

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Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

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That was compared to 40 hours for government bureaucrats, teachers and healthcare workers.

The MDPS added that the average monthly salary for a cook, nanny or cleaner was around QR2,742 – much more than the figure cited by HelperChoice.

However, the ministry did not state if this figure included costs such as medical and travel expenses.

Worker protection

Elsewhere, HelperChoice found that domestic workers in Kuwait, which recently set a minimum wage for house help, earn less than their Gulf peers, at about $388 (KD1,117) a month.

But domestic staff there are now entitled to basic rights. That includes a 12-hour work day, a weekly day off, 30 days’ paid annual leave and end-of-service benefits.

Meanwhile, in Qatar and some other Gulf states, household workers continue to have no protection under the labor law.

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Amnesty International

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Human rights groups have called this problematic because it leaves those working as maids, nannies, cleaners, cooks and gardeners open to exploitation.

They’ve found that complaints about long hours, low pay, no holidays and restrictions on movement are relatively common.

For years, GCC countries talked about implementing a unified contract for domestic workers, but this was abandoned last January.

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BunchandBrock Law

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Still, “the average pay offered to domestic workers was surprisingly similar between the states,” HelperChoice founder Laurence Fauchon said in a statement.

She added that base salaries were usually determined by a worker’s home country.

Thoughts?

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Brian Evans/Flickr

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Updated on July 28 with action taken on the workers’ situation

The Philippines Embassy in Doha has launched an investigation into the potential abuse of two domestic workers here after a beauty salon in Al Hilal reported receiving a handwritten note from them pleading for help.

The salon is in a residential area, and staff told Doha News that the women were living and working in a neighboring villa.

They said they often heard fights, shouts and calls for help from the accommodation, which is near the Mamoura Shopping Complex.

One employee added:

“We feel worried about the women next door. We have never seen them outside. We do not know how they are communicating with their families and whether they are able to send any money to them back home.”

This is the most recent example of alleged domestic worker abuse in Qatar. Rights groups said such reports are not uncommon because these women’s rights often go unprotected.

Asking for help

According to a source close to the matter, the abuse of the household help had gone on for two years.

Then last week, one of the domestic workers threw a note into the courtyard of the salon, which is opposite the Mamoura Shopping Complex.

Note for help

Supplied

Note for help

It reads, as translated from Tagalog:

“I am sorry to bother you at work. I need your help. Can we take your office number? Because we can’t work for them anymore. They have been shouting at us and slapping one of us. And they have not been paying all of us.”

Embassy involved

This morning, a senior embassy official told Doha News that authorities have been contacted about the matter.

Philippines embassy in Doha

Philippines embassy in Doha/Facebook

Philippines embassy in Doha

Roussel Reyes, consul general in charge of assistance to nationals and consular matters at the embassy, said:

“We came to know of this case yesterday through our labour attache who passed on a handwritten note and we will approach the police today.”

UPDATE: Reyes told Doha News the women were removed from the home on Tuesday, and compensation is being discussed with their employer.

“Right now, they are housed in our custody center. The police were very responsive to our complaint and acted immediately.”

Reyes added that anyone else in such a situation is asked to call the embassy’s 24-hour helplines.

Those seeking assistance of any kind of problems pertaining to the safety of women or a police case can reach the embassy at 6644 6303.

No labor law protection

The domestic workers’ case is not unique, according to human rights groups.

Speaking to Doha News, Amnesty International researcher Fabien Goa blamed Qatar’s current sponsorship system for such incidents:

“That domestic workers have to resort to writing such discreet notes pleading for help illustrates the extent to which abusive employers are able to significantly restrict domestic workers movement and communication,” he said.

Qatar must provide domestic workers with effective labor rights protected by law, he added.

This call was echoed by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) this week, which recommended that legislation be issued to change the status quo.

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Mopaw Foundation/Flickr

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In its annual report, the group urged the government to regulate the work of domestic help, the Qatar Tribune reports.

A unified GCC domestic workers’ contract was previously discussed, but abandoned after disagreement over whether to give house help a day off.

The NHRC also recommended that authorities make it easier to report abuses.

This could be done by installing a Ministry of Interior office at Hamad International Airport and the Public Prosecutor’s headquarters, it said.

What’s next

When asked about what should be done in the case of the Filipina domestic workers who appear to be in peril, Amnesty International researcher Drewery Dyke told Doha News:

“For justice to be done and to be seen to be done, the women in the case must be protected and provided support; be given legal support and enabled to speak without fear about their experiences and for judicial personnel not only take these seriously but be prepared to act on.”

Reiterating policy measures recommend by Amnesty in the past, Dyke added that officials must realize household help is subject to double-discrimination because they are low-income workers who are also women.

Qatar must tackle “prejudices and negative attitudes among employers, recruiters and state officials,” he said.

Thoughts?