Hiring of Domestic Workers
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), as one of the top destinations of OFWs next to Saudi Arabia, is also one of the major recruiters of household service workers or DHs. The demand for DHs was increasing significantly so as the problems and issues on abuses and maltreatment committed by employers. This prompted the Department of Labor (DOLE) and the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to introduce measures to curb the employment problems that beset the DHs.
One of the measures introduced was the strict adoption of a standard employment contract for household service workers/ DHs that required verification by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO). No hiring of DHs from the Philippines could be done unless the standard contract underwent verification by the POLO.
Suspension of Deployment
In July 2014, the POEA temporarily suspended the deployment of domestic helpers to the UAE in view of the new policy that was implemented by the UAE government on the employment of DHs.
The UAE decided to implement a new standard contract for household workers hired overseas where verification of embassies of countries deploying them is no longer needed. This new policy runs contrary to the Philippine policy where verification of contracts is required before sending them off to work in other countries.
Verification of contracts and other employment documents means ensuring Filipino domestic helpers get a minimum $400 monthly wage, a minimum age deployment of 23, a weekly off, and no placement fees. Being deprived of these benefits, makes the domestic helpers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
However, it was reported that in the three years since Manila refused to stamp new contracts, Filipinos have continued to travel to the UAE on visit visas and tried to find work, while some recruiters have hired Filipinos as office cleaners, then turned them into domestic helpers shortly after. Incidents of human trafficking and illegal recruitment cases were reported to increase during the said period while there was a significant decline in the number of legally deployed household workers.
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Signed
The Philippines and the United Arab Emirates have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that agrees to have favorable recruitment and employment process for Filipino domestic helpers. Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization HE Saqr Ghobash and Department of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello signed the memorandum on September 12 which will pave the way for Filipino domestic helpers to be recruited in the UAE again.
The signed memorandum reflects the eagerness of both countries to enhance their cooperation in the field of labor and developing the working conditions of domestic helpers. Furthermore, this memorandum also strengthens the partnership between the two countries in area of labor force.
The UAE has a great demand for domestic helpers especially in the Philippines. Among the one million OFWs in the UAE, 200,000 or 20% are domestic helpers.
Salient Provisions of the MOU
- A weekly day off
- 30 days paid holidays
- At least 12 hours of rest a day including eight consecutive hours off
- The right to retain passports and identity cards
- Fair and humane treatment of workers
- Due payment and no withholding of wages
- Decent accommodation
- Medical treatment
- Non-payment by the worker of recruitment and deployment fees
- Non-payment by the worker of repatriation expenses
B. Recruitment Proces
- The recruitment office is tasked with sending the job offer to the employee in their home country and listing the obligations of the labor contract
- The contract will be signed by the employer and employee upon the arrival of the latter to the country
- Only private recruitment offices registered under the ministry can offer recruitment and employment for domestic workers
- Awareness and guidance programs will be organized for the employer and employee prior to deployment.
The formulation by both parties of the guidelines on the implementation of the new standard contract embodying the provisions of the MOU would likely signal the resumption of the deployment of DHs to the UAE.
Increase in the Deployment of DHs, A Right Move?
While we appreciate the government’s initiatives to give more and better protection to Filipino DHs, we are wondering how the same government gives importance to the policy of discouraging the sending of vulnerable skills that include DHs considering that this category of OFWs are prone to abuses and maltreatment. It is not the number but more of the quality of employment that everyone should aspire for.
What do you think Kabayan? Please share with us your comments on the issue.