Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday new rules to grant some rights to foreign domestic workers, but stressed they must “respect” Islam and “obey” their employers.
Labor Minister Adel Faqih said that the maids 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 in remarks carried by the official SPA news agency.
But the new rules also require employers to follow through with payments and other rights guaranteed to the workers by their contracts.
Faqih said that employers must pay workers “the agreed monthly salary without delay, and give them a day off each week.”
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.
Saudi Arabia gained international notoriety earlier this year over its treatment of foreign domestic workers after the US-backed kingdom beheaded a Sri Lankan maid convicted of killing her employer’s baby.
Human Rights Watch said that Saudi authorities put the maid “under duress” to force a confession. Sri Lanka recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia after the brutal killing of the maid.
Foreign domestic workers employed in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries sometimes face slave-like conditions under the sponsorship system which ties the maid to her employer.
Around eight million foreign workers are employed in Saudi Arabia, 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. (Courtesy Albawaba.com)