Human Rights Watch commends UAE's 2016 labour law

The international organisation has applauded the UAE's efforts to ramp up the conditions of migrant labour through its upcoming labour law of January 2016

Human Rights Watch has commended the UAE's upcoming labour law of 2016. [Representational image]
Human Rights Watch has commended the UAE's upcoming labour law of 2016. [Representational image]

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organisation aimed at highlighting and improving human rights conditions around the world, has commended the UAE's upcoming labour law, which is due to take effect in 2016. 

"Migrant workers in the [GCC]  countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have told researchers that when they arrive in these countries, they are forced to sign contracts that pay less than promised in contracts they signed before they left their own countries to take the jobs," HRW said in a statement. 

"This contract substitution can make workers vulnerable to forced labour, especially if workers have taken on debts to pay recruitment fees," the report continued. 

According to Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, the law's "success will depend on whether workers will have access to complaint mechanisms when employers don't abide by the new regulations". 

“A major complaint of migrant workers in the UAE is usually that they’re not being paid what they were promised, so UAE authorities deserve credit if this law ends contract substitution," Stork continued. 

Article 1 of Ministerial Decree 764 of 2015 states that, “tentative approval to admit a foreign worker for the purpose of employment in the UAE cannot be granted until an employment offer that conforms with the Standard Employment Contract is presented to and duly signed by the worker.”

Employers must use Labour Ministry standard employment contracts, and workers can only be registered for employment after signing such a contract, which “captures exactly the terms of the employment offer.”

A standard employment contract in the UAE contains information on pay, date and duration of the contract, and the nature of the work to be performed.

Workers should be able to retain copies of the standard employment contract they sign in their countries of origin, contracts should be written in a language they understand, and they should be able to access a grievance mechanism in the UAE that can resolve complaints quickly, and penalise offenders.

According to HRW, the UAE Labour Ministry's decrees numbered 765 and 766 will outline the rules for terminating employment, and granting work permits to new employees, both of which are expected to take effect in January. 

The rules are anticipated to "partly govern" how the kafala system operates in the country. 

Decree 765 states that workers on a “renewed term contract” can unilaterally terminate their employment, but only if they effectively buy out the contract.

If the parties have not agreed on the sum, the decree sets it at three months’ wages, according to HRW.

Workers on their first contract with their UAE employer do not appear to benefit from this clause, the organisation added. 

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