Kuwait’s Parliament on Wednesday unanimously passed the first ever legislation in the country to regulate the status of thousands of mainly Asian domestic helpers. As in neighbouring countries, domestic helpers in Kuwait are excluded under the Labour Law that covers workers in the private sector and are instead tied to labour contracts only.
The new law grants the 600,000 domestic helpers in Kuwait — most of them Asian women — a 12-hour working day, a day off once a week, and 30 days’ annual leave. It also obliges employers to open a bank account for maids and transfer their wages to the account to resolve the problem of delays or non-payment of salaries. Under the law, which takes effect after publication in the official gazette, maids who agree to work extra hours must be paid overtime.
Kuwait and other Gulf countries, where at least 2.4 million domestic helpers work, have repeatedly come under strong criticism by international rights groups for alleged maltreatment of foreign workers, particularly domestic helpers. During the session, the lawmakers agreed on the need to review the proposal to polish laws on domestic workers in the Legislative and Legal Affairs committee as per Article 103 of the Parliament’s Procedural Rules.
This article allows the Parliament to refer any proposal to amend laws to the committee for deliberation. According to the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee’s report on the proposal, the amendment is necessary because the current legislative texts do not provide adequate legal protection for domestic workers, even though they constitute a large percentage of the expatriate workforce.
The report pointed out that Private Sector Labor Law Number 6/2010 has no stipulations on domestic workers.
Article One of the bill defines ‘domestic worker’ as any male or female assigned to do manual work inside private residences (and their equivalent) by virtue of a written contract. The article also defines ‘employer’ as a person who hires a household worker under a contract prepared by the Ministry of Interior.
Article Two stipulates that the issuance or renewal of a license to recruit domestic workers is allowed only for Kuwaiti nationals with good reputation, not less than 30 years old but not more than 70 years old, holds at least a high school certificate, and must present a guarantee letter from a local bank specifying the security deposit as per the decision of the interior minister. It is permitted to issue a license to State-owned companies and institutions involved in the recruitment of domestic workers, as well as companies that operate in the field of recruiting domestic workers.
Article Four prohibits the licensee, his employees or clients from receiving any payment from a domestic worker for employing or keeping him with an employer, either directly or indirectly. Otherwise, the licensee shall be punished as per the stipulation of the Penal Code for blackmail and graft.
Article Seven obliges the employer to pay the agreed wage for domestic workers at the end of every month. The transfer and receipt forms shall serve as proof that the employee received his salary.
Article Eight states that payment of monthly wage for domestic workers shall be from the actual date he started working and it is not allowed to deduct any amount from the salary regardless of the circumstances.
Article Nine obliges the employer to provide the domestic worker with food, clothes, accommodation and medical care.
Article 10 states a domestic worker should not be forced to do something that might negatively affect his health or offend his dignity. The Domestic Labor Department will handle such cases.
Article 11 obliges the employer to provide the domestic worker with adequate housing for him to live comfortably.
Article 12 prohibits the employer from keeping the personal documents of the domestic worker such as passport and civil ID unless it is done with the consent of the worker.
Article 17 stipulates that the domestic worker recruitment office shall ensure the worker continues his work for six months.
The office should be responsible for the domestic worker’s return to his country and reimburse the amount obtained from the employer in the following cases:
â– Any obstacle that prevents the domestic worker from doing his work, not caused by the employer.
â– The worker is found to be infected with a communicable disease, in addition to other physical or health conditions or hindrances that prevent him from continuing the work.
â– The employer cannot obtain residency permit for the worker due to certain legalities.
â– The domestic worker needs to be deported to serve public interests.
â– The domestic office provided incorrect information about the domestic worker.
â– The domestic worker refused to continue to work and escaped to an unknown place. In case the office refuses to shoulder the expenses for deporting the domestic worker and reimburse any amount collected from the employer, the Domestic Labor Department shall deduct the amount from the security deposit mentioned in articles two and three.
Article 24 states that without prejudice to the provisions of Article 25, the director of the Domestic Labor Department must take administrative measures against the domestic labor office involved in any one of the cases, if it fails to assign a domestic worker to the employer within 24 hours unless there is a valid reason for the delay, and if it fails to receive the domestic worker upon arrival in the country or causes delay without a valid reason.
Article 34 states that upon settlement of disputes between the domestic worker and the employer, the director of the Domestic Labor Department must issue a clearance certificate to the worker stating he has no right to confront the employer and the recruitment office.
Meanwhile, on the proposed establishment of a closed joint-stock company for the recruitment of domestic workers, the report of the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee stated that the bill specifies conditions for the recruitment of domestic workers.
The recruitment process should be handled by a specialized company which fully abides by humanitarian regulations. The report pointed out that the proposal, once implemented, will improve Kuwait’s position in international labor organizations which demanded for changes in the current system in order to protect the rights of workers.
Article One stipulates establishment of a closed stock company for the recruitment of domestic workers.
The company’s shares shall be divided as follows: 10 percent for Kuwait Investment Authority, 10 percent for the Public Institution for Social Security, 60 percent for the Cooperative Societies Union, 10 percent for the Public Authority for Minors Affairs and 10 percent for Kuwait Airways Corporation.
It allows the company’s board of directors to amend the percentage of shares in case any other institution wishes to participate or withdraw.
Article Two states the company must be headquartered in Kuwait and it can open one or many branches.
Article Four states the company’s board of directors shall include a chairman and six representatives of the shareholders based on the nomination of the General Assembly of the partners; as well as the membership of representatives, in an advisory capacity, from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health and Public Authority for Manpower. The board shall specify the work system and dates of meetings, issue decisions, and reward its members and committees.
Article Five states that subject to the provisions of laws governing domestic workers, the company must train the workers in special centers before they enter Kuwait, ensure safety of the recruited workers who must also be free from diseases before entering the country, and use advanced technology to maintain a database for the personal data of recruited workers and other pertinent information.
Article Six limits the activity of this company to the recruitment and employment of domestic workers in the State of Kuwait in accordance with the provisions of the domestic labor laws issued in this regard.
Article Seven states that the recruitment of domestic workers, their rights and obligations, must be subject to the laws of the State; as well as the decisions of the Interior Ministry which handles everything related to the recruitment of domestic workers.
In another development, the Parliament approved the proposed establishment of the National Commission for Human Rights in its second reading.
The bill’s explanatory memo states that the commission is an independent national body which is not affiliated to any State or administrative bureau. The preamble of the bill, which consists of 14 articles, cites different constitutional, legal, and international references upon which the terms and provisions were based; including the United Nations General Assembly resolution number 34/148 on the status and functions of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights, known as the ‘Paris Principles’ Article Two of the bill states that an independent commission called the ‘National Commission for Human Rights’ shall be established under the supervision of the Council of Ministers.
The commission aims to promote and protect human rights, respect for public and private freedoms in line with the Constitution and international conventions ratified by the State of Kuwait, without contravening Article Two of the Constitution.
The commission is a legal entity that is independent in terms of its functions, activities and jurisdiction. The Parliament also approved the proposed amendment to Article Seven on the judicial seizure term, which was questioned by the government in the first debate.
The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee stressed in its report the need to amend the clause for the commission to have the right to receive complaints, monitor human rights violation cases, study these cases, investigate them and refer violators to the concerned authorities.
On the other hand, the proposal to amend the Diplomatic and Consulate Corps Law was approved in its first and second readings. During deliberations on the bill, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid explained the goal is to rectify the employment structure to be similar to that of other ministries. He disclosed that the staff is eligible to head a delegation and represent the country after 10 to 12 years in service.
|Edhelyn pilapil||Posted on : September 11, 2015 9:24 am|
I am a dh worker here in kuwait. I read the whole article and the statements about human rights are the same but im sad coz my agency and my employer didnt follow it. I came here last year december and i never had a restday since i came. Working for 16 hours a day and more on weekend its not a humanitarian. I understand if they r worried about some unwanted doings outside but they mustn't generalized people. We r not all the same. Nobody wants to be in danger anyway.. pls if someone can give me any idea for what i can do about this,i really appreciate that..thank u