The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the past 10 plus years have changed drastically and significantly for the good. We had skyscrapers shoot up, millions of jobs created, a dominant art and culture scene, SMEs flourishing, active youth citizens and a World Cup coming up in Qatar, as well as a world expo on its way to the UAE.
We also had a flock of people from all walks of life seeking jobs in the GCC, becoming a necessary component of our societies. So it is no surprise that the GCC has also been under a lot of scrutiny in the press, both nationally and internationally, over the treatment of these workers. Although the international media has exaggerated the situation in some accounts, forgetting that some of the companies that mistreat blue collar workers are also run by expats, it is also important to acknowledge that theirs is a situation that needs addressing in order for us to change for the better.
The number of domestic workers in the GCC is pretty large, with an estimated 2.4 million across the six countries. Yet, many of these countries exclude domestic workers from any regular employment laws. So it’s only fair to say that currently our religion of Islam, culture and our morals play a role as important as the law on how we treat domestic workers. With that said though, the law in Kuwait has recently changed to the better, making Kuwait the only GCC country to do so. I hope that the other countries will follow suit, as it is a very important and critical matter that cannot be ignored. I have answered below a few recent questions that I have received from domestic workers.
Question: I am a domestic worker and I am wondering how the new law affects me. Can you explain please?
Fajer: The new bylaw states the following:
* The minimum salary of any domestic workers is KD 60 per month, and just to make things more clear, some embassies have set a minimum wage for their workers that is higher than KD 60. So KD 60 is the bare minimum.
* There will be 12 hours of work maximum, and for any additional hours worked, the worker will be compensated with overtime pay.
* The domestic worker will have 30 paid days off per year.
Question: I am being abused. I work 19+ hours a day without rest. I am not allowed to have my phone (I am emailing you from the house’s iPad) and I barely get food. Help me. What can I do?
Fajer: First things first, assess your situation. If it is life-threatening, please go to the shelter. The Kuwaiti government has set up a beautiful and safe shelter for those that need it. If your case is not life threatening yet critical, please contact your embassy. If you don’t have an embassy, you can email me and I will forward your case to the Society of Social Workers). Please include the following details when emailing me:
1) Your name
2) Your ID number
3) The name of your boss
And any other information you think is vital. Please contact your country’s embassy if there is one in Kuwait.
Question: I came to Kuwait four months ago, and my boss doesn’t want me to work with him anymore, so he sent me to another house, but they don’t want me either. So I was told that they are buying me a ticket and sending me home. But I don’t want to go home. What can I do?
Fajer: Unfortunately, you can only be transferred to another household if you have been in Kuwait a year. That means you might have to go back home. I understand that you don’t want to as you have probably invested to be here. If you were under the Kuwait labor law, then your boss would have had to pay you the rest of your contract or at least give you three months’ notice, but this is not the case with domestic workers!
I hope the above has brought some insight to the situation and I hope that we hold a better future for foreigners coming to work in our region.
For any legal questions or queries, email [email protected]
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed