By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: Domestic helpers in Kuwait can claim their end of service benefits (indemnities) from their employers as stipulated in the domestic labor law signed and approved by the National Assembly in 2015. The new domestic labor law includes the right of domestic workers to a weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour working day with rest, and an end-of-service benefit of one month’s salary for each year of work at the end of the contract, among other rights.
Speaking exclusively to Kuwait Times, Philippine Labor Attache to Kuwait Nasser Mustafa said the indemnity provision in the law is for all domestic helpers regardless of nationality, provided they hold an article 20 visa. “This is cited in the domestic labor law of Kuwait. We are informing our people about this law, which we believe many of our workers are unaware of,” he said.
Mustafa said Overseas Filipino Workers can seek the Philippine Embassy’s help if an employer refuses to pay their end of service benefits. He however clarified that since the law was only passed in 2015 in Kuwait, there can be no guarantee that domestic helpers can claim the entire indemnity if they have been working with their employers before that.
“The implementation rules only came out in 2017, so we can only ask for the indemnity from 2017 onwards. The years prior to the approval of the domestic labor law are not covered. The law is not retroactive. However, if the OFW insists, we try to resolve the matter amicably with their employers, but we cannot promise anything. From 2017 onwards, we can help claim the indemnities and that is our mandate – to help our people in case of nonpayment of their benefits/salaries,” Mustafa added.
The embassy informs OFWs who have concerns about their claims for indemnity to visit the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) so they can be properly assisted, or email their complaints at [email protected] The labor attache has created a team composed of Assistant Labor Attaché Catherine Duladul, Louella Marie Calanza and Lovelyn Saban to handle all cases pertaining to claims of indemnity of domestic workers.
“Considering the long process, we advise workers to file their complaints at least one month before their flight to the Philippines. We will try our best to help you get your rights. To those who have worked with their employers for many years, even prior to the 2015 passing of the domestic labor law – while we do not promise anything, we will try our very best by filing your claims at the Public Authority for Manpower.
I already spoke to the head of PAM, and they promised us their full cooperation whenever we have this type of claim from Filipinos. To date, we have around 40 requests for indemnity, and we are going to file these claims at the PAM and inshallah, we will get what we want,” Mustafa said.
The domestic labor law passed by the National Assembly is the country’s first regulating the labor rights of domestic workers. Kuwait has more than 600,000 such workers, most of them women from Asia and Africa. A 2010 Human Rights Watch report documented many abuses against domestic workers, including non-payment of wages, long working hours with no rest days, physical and sexual assault, and no clear channels for redress.