With the passage of landmark legislation, Saudi Arabia has moved to ensure the protection of domestic worker rights.
The new law which has already been approved by the Council of Ministers, sets nine hours of free time for each worker per day, and allows them one day off per week.
Further, domestic workers will also be entitled to one month paid vacation every two years and medical leave. Under the new law, domestic servants will have a probationary period of three months. The workers will be entitled to receive their salary at the end of every month without delay, and receive accommodation and end-of-service benefits after four years.
Saudi Arabia has often faced criticism from labor exporting countries for not doing enough to protect worker rights. Recently, the Kingdom deported several thousand illegal blue-collar workers in the country, following the implementation of its Nitaqat law.
It is estimated that about two million workers, mainly from South Asia and Africa, are employed as domestic servants in the Kingdom.
“The law aims at regulating relationship between domestic help and their employers while explaining their rights and duties, and punishment for violators of contract terms.” — Labor Minister Adel Fakeih, in the Arab News
However, the workers will be required to respect the teachings of Islam and the rules of the country during their term of employment. Workers will also be expected to “obey the employer and his family members and protect their property and should not harm children, nor elderly family members” and preserve family secrets. Under the new law, “the worker will not have the right to reject work or leave the job without any genuine reason.”
The employers are also forbidden to ask the worker to do any job not covered under their contract or which may adversely affect their health. In case an employer breaches the contract, a fine of 2,000 riyals can be imposed, and a temporary ban on recruitment for domestic help may apply. A third violation of the contract will result in fines of 10,000 riyals and a lifetime ban on hiring domestic help.
On the other hand, any workers who violate their contract will be fined 2,000 riyals and banned from working in Saudi Arabia. Further, they will be required to cover their own repatriation costs.