Lanka insists on insurance coverage for housemaids

Sri Lanka is seeking the implementation of a negotiated insurance plan from employers in the Kingdom for new housemaids arriving here to protect both the employees as well as the Saudi sponsors, a senior official from the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) told Arab News.
Amid reports from Colombo that Sri Lanka has suspended sending maids to Saudi Arabia, SLBFE Chairman Amal Senadhilankara told Arab News from Colombo that SLBFE is seriously considering to send only the maids with a valid insurance cover obtained in the Kingdom.
The official said the arrival of Sri Lankan maids was continuing as usual. They include new recruits and those who have gone to Colombo on exit re-entry visas.
He also denied a report in Colombo’s Sunday Leader newspaper that Sri Lanka had suspended sending maids to the Kingdom. But he acknowledged that tougher regulations were being introduced to protect the rights of Sri Lankan migrant workers.
The proposed insurance scheme, International Social Security Program (ISSP), which was earlier agreed between Saudi and Lankan authorities, applies only to domestic aides, who are coming into the Kingdom for employment from Colombo.
He added that the program has been devised to support Sri Lanka’s migrant labor in the domestic categories in Saudi Arabia.
The program was introduced by the SLBFE in association with the ISSP International.
“An important feature in the scheme is that the employer will have to make the total insurance premium without any financial burden on the employee,” the official said.
The social protection scheme is considered a win-win mechanism for both parties as the concerns of both groups are met in a comprehensive manner, he said.
Lankan men and women below 50 years, who seek employment in the Kingdom as domestic aides will come under the scheme. Workers already in Saudi will be integrated when their employment agreement is renewed.
The benefits to the employee include the payment of SR 15,000 (Rs 435,000) for dependents in case of death of the worker (either due to accident or natural causes) and SR 15,000 (maximum) for hospital admission or OPD treatment for illness.
In proven cases of abuse against the employee, he or she would be paid SR 15,000 (maximum) as compensation. In cases of non-payment of salaries, the employee would be compensated up to six months. In addition to financial benefits, the cover includes legal assistance and language translation facilities, free of charge.
The insurance scheme also covers losses incurred by the employer, in case of wrong doings by the worker. In case of employee vacating his/her job before the stipulated period, the employer is provided with the initial payment they made to the employment agent (maximum SR 8,000).
The employer has the right to claim the payment made to the employment agent plus the expenses incurred for the airline ticket needed to send the employee back home if the employee refuses to carry out his or her job functions.
The scheme is a follow-up to a decision made by Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera with the Saudi Labor Minister during his visit to the Kingdom.
It was agreed at the meeting that the Sri Lankan government would appoint an international insurance company and the Saudi government would persuade the sponsor to pay the premium on behalf of his employee who will be working as a maid in his house.
“Such an arrangement will ease the problems of both the employee and the employer, as also the two governments in case of eventuality such as repatriation of dead bodies, medical treatment and accidents,” the minister said.
A large percentage of the 550,000 Sri Lankan workers in the Kingdom are housemaids who remit a sizable sum to the national coffers of their country. Remittances from Lankan overseas workers is the second largest foreign exchange earner in Colombo.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan cabinet increased the age limit of the housemaids coming to Saudi Arabia to 25 to curtail labor problems.
The cabinet authorized the ministry to impose conditions on female domestic workers seeking Employment opportunities abroad in future.
The minimum age for Saudi Arabia is limited to 25 for housemaids and all female workers should have completed 21 days residential training and obtained National Vocational Qualification(NVQ) level 3 certificate for “Domestic Housekeeping Assistant. Hitherto , the age limit was 21 to all countries.
To control under-age housemaids going for foreign employment, the SLBFE has deployed more than 50 staff at the Colombo International Airport to assist the island’s overseas workers and to stop such maids leaving the country for employment. (Arab News)