New Saudi rules set rights for domestic workers

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11:37 AM July 18th, 2013

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July 18th, 2013 11:37 AM

A maid carries a folding chair for waiting Saudi women along the sea front in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. AFP FILE PHOTO

RIYADH—Saudi Arabia has announced new rules to protect the rights of foreign domestic workers, most of whom are from South Asia, but stressed they must “respect” Islam and “obey” their employers.

Labor Minister Adel Faqih said the new rules require employers to pay workers “the agreed monthly salary without delay, and give them a day off each week,” in remarks carried by the official SPA news agency.

Employers are also required to provide domestic workers with “suitable accommodations, as well as granting them time to rest for at least nine hours each day,” Faqih said.

Under the new guidelines, workers are entitled to paid sick leave and a one-month paid vacation after putting in two years of work as well as end of service compensation equal to one month salary after four years, he said.

But Faqih also insisted that employees must respect “Islam and its teachings… and obey the orders of the employers and their family members concerning getting the agreed work done.”

A domestic worker “does not have the right to reject a work, or leave a job, without a valid reason,” he added.

Around eight million foreign workers are employed in the oil-rich kingdom, with most of them coming from South Asia and earning low wages. The number of domestic workers is not available.

In June the Philippines said it had signed a landmark agreement with Saudi Arabia that would protect thousands of Filipina maids from being exploited in the kingdom.

The agreement followed a row that erupted in 2011 when the Philippines insisted on a minimum wage of $400 a month for its maids among other measures.

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