Last June, Kuwait’s parliament proposed a draft domestic workers law. The most recent update of the draft law obtained by Migrant-Rights.org still fails to adequately address domestic workers’ vulnerabilities, relinquishing too much power and responsibility to recruiters and employers while providing few mechanisms for prevention and accountability. Voting on the draft was once again postponed, this time due to preoccupation with the Yemen war.
The draft law defines a domestic worker as “a male or female assigned to perform manual tasks at private homes. They are drivers, cooks, servants, and nannies.” Workers can be no younger than 20 and no older than 60. For reasons unspecified, the labor ministry has the power to exempt certain workers.
- The interior ministry has long used deportation as its primary mean of migration management, one it appears to reassert in the draft law.
- As per the proposed law, recruitment agents cannot charge workers any fee. Agencies can risk losing their licenses if they charge workers fees or if they do not use the standard contract that the state will issue.
- Sponsors are obligated to pay wages in accordance with the amount stipulated in the contract at the end of each month. Receipts signed by both employer and employee must be maintained as proof. The law does not specify what mechanisms will be adopted to ensure that workers are paid on time.
- The law stipulates that workers in Kuwait could be deported during their first two years at the cost of recruitment agencies in a long list of cases. This list leaves too much room for interpretation and for workers to be deported without due cause. Read more.
- Workers can also complain to the department if they have worked overtime without payment. If employers are found guilty, they must pay double the specified wage. The concept of overtime for domestic workers is entirely new and marks an important gain; however, there remains no limit on total working hours, making it difficult to prove wrongdoing.
- Employers recruiting minors will be fined 500 KD and/or face up to 6 months of jail time. Perhaps most notably, employers found guilty of abuse will be suspended from sponsoring workers for an unspecified period of time.
While the draft law suggests some promising improvements for domestic workers, it suffers from a number of issues even if properly enforced. The draft makes little effort to align domestic workers rights with the labor rights of others workers; one parliamentarian readily admitted it would be “ridiculous” to grant domestic workers a day off outside the home.
For complete analysis and more details of the draft law, download our report.