UAE law targets sexual harassment, forced labour

by Reuters
Tuesday, 26 September 2017 15:52 GMT

The Torch tower residential building in the Marina district in Dubai, United Arab Emirates August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

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Law includes prohibitions on sexual harassment, forced labour and the employment of domestic workers under 18

DUBAI, Sept 26 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates, criticised globally for its treatment of migrant workers, issued a law on Tuesday to combat abuse of domestic staff, state news agency WAM said.

It includes prohibitions on sexual harassment, forced labour, and the employment of domestic workers under 18.

It also stipulates that workers are entitled to one paid day off each week, 30 days of paid vacation per year and up to 30 days of sick leave.

President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan approved the law, which was praised by human rights organisations when its draft was passed by the country's legislative body in May.

The UAE relies heavily on migrant labour with an estimated 8 million workers making up more than 80 percent of its population, according to the International Labour Organization.

Many domestic workers come from southeast Asia.

The Gulf Arab state has in the past been sharply criticised by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for allowing domestic staff to endure long hours, unpaid wages and abuse.

The new law covers 19 service work occupations, including guards, parking valet workers, gardeners, domestic workers, cooks, and nannies, as well as private trainers, nurses, and drivers.

It is set to take effect two months after its publication in the official gazette.

While welcoming the legal change, rights organizations have voiced concerns about its enforcement and implementation -- like how labour inspections will be conducted.

Another area of concern, the "kafala" or sponsorship system which forces foreign workers to seek their employer's consent to change jobs or leave the country, appears set to remain in place.

(Reporting By Stephen Kalin Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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