Insurance plan for maids in Bahrain proposed to parliament

Proposal aims to tackle incidents in which housemaids either run away from their employer or break the law

  

Bahrain's parliament will study a proposal that could oblige housemaids to obtain insurance to pay for repatriation expenses.

The proposal aims to tackle incidents in which housemaids either run away from their employer or break the law.

It was submitted to parliament chairwoman Fouzia Zainal yesterday by three members of the Bahrain Bloc – Ammar Qambar, Hamad Al Kooheji and Zainab Abdulamir.

Ms Zainal transferred the bill to the services committee for review ahead of parliament resuming its sessions next month following a five-month recess.

Employers are currently obliged to pay return air fares for expats, but some claim they should not be responsible for the tickets of foreign employees who abscond from the workplace.

Services committee vice-chairman Mamdooh Al Saleh told the GDN yesterday the proposed amendments required extensive review because it did take into consideration that maids were in the low-income category.

He suggested having the deportation insurance included in the initial amount paid by employers to recruitment agencies.

“The concept of introducing an insurance is excellent and would resolve the ongoing problems related to sponsors being forced to pay the expenses of deportation, repatriation, or work-related injuries,” he said.

“However, having the poor housemaids pay BD70 to BD80 yearly for the insurance, while what they receive is barely considered a wage, is inhumane and puts them under huge financial difficulties.

“The insurance could be covered under the amount paid by the sponsors – someone who is willing to spend BD1,200 and is in need of a housemaid can pay an additional BD160 for the duration of the two-year work contract.

“We have to sit with those behind the proposal alongside government officials concerned as we seek proper explanations and proper amendments to existing laws in a bid to protect everyone.”

The proposal relates to three laws and if passed could be presented as an amendment to the 2012 Private Sector Employment Law, the 2014 Housemaids Licensing Law and the 2006 Labour Market Regulatory Law.

Mr Qambar, who is also the committee’s chairman, said the proposal aimed to rectify the existing situation in which employers were forced to pay for repatriations, which he described as unfair.

“The sponsor loses the housemaid after paying around BD1,200 and then will have to pay BD200 for return airfare which is double the punishment,” he said.

“This is unjust and unfair since it is the housemaid who has decided to break the law, not the employer.”

Rejected

The GDN reported in May that two MPs proposed a national fund that would pay for the repatriation of expats accused of absconding from work.

However, the proposal was rejected by the government authorities concerned on the basis that it would encourage expat workers to break the law rather than respect it.

In the same month, parliament approved a legislation that would force workers to buy their own plane tickets home.

MPs voted that such expats should buy their own tickets, approving an amendment to the 2006 Labour Market Regulatory Law – despite Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain saying it was unconstitutional.

The amendment must first be approved by the Shura Council before it takes effect, with it set for debate next month.

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