Domestic Workers most overworked during Ramadan. What can you do?

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During Ramadan, across the GCC work hours are shortened to as few as five hours and not more than six hours a day. Except if you are a domestic worker... which could mean even longer hours than the average 12-14 a day.

Jun 9 2016

In the best of times, domestic workers in the Gulf work long hours, are underpaid and highly isolated with little or no means to redress their grievances.

In Saudi Arabia, the  domestic work sector the highest average working hours, at 63.7 hours worked per week (2009). This is also the case in Qatar, where the average working hours of persons employed by private households amounts to 60 hours per week (2009).  According to Amnesty International some workers work up to 100 hours a week. (2014)

Because no distinction is made between working hours and non-working hours, the notion of overtime does not exist.

According to a 2005 ILO study, the average number of work hours for female domestic workers in Bahrain was 108 per week, slightly higher than in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (101 and 105 respectively).

In Qatar, the highest average working hours by economic activity are observed for workers in the “household activities” with 57 hours weekly.

Come Ramadan, their plight often becomes even more severe.

The pressure on domestic workers during Ramadan is acknowledged both by local media and the governmentResearchers say that the number of runaway maids reaches its peak during Ramadan because they are simply overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do every day.

A large number of housemaids and domestic drivers run away from their employers during Ramadan due to tremendous work pressure, says a senior official of the Ministry of Interior in Qatar.

"We have found during investigations with housemaids and drivers who escaped from their sponsors, that maltreatment, domestic violence, overwork in Ramadan and no day-off in the week are some of the major woes that prompt household hands to escape," Al Sayed told Qatari media.

Ramadan is also the month when embassies of countries of origin of many domestic workers report high numbers of workers fleeing their employers to escape abuse.

Despite this widespread recognition that domestic workers are overworked and are not given enough rest during Ramadan, no measures have been taken to ensure or even nurture fair employment practices. Domestic workers in exploitative situations do not have the option of changing employers –  their only hope to escape mistreatment is to run away or 'abscond,' an act which all Gulf governments criminalize.

So what can we do to ensure fair treatment of domestic workers during Ramadan? 

Muslim Employer & Muslim DW
Muslim Employer & Non-Muslim DW
Non-Muslim Employer & Muslim DW
Acknowledge
Everyone is entitled to shorter working hours in Ramadan. A household helper is too. She is entitled to at least 2 hours of additional rest in Ramadan. Changes to meal times and regular routine during Ramadan is not something that the household helper is accustomed to. Everyone is entitled to shorter working hours in Ramadan. A household helper is too. She is entitled to at least 2 hours of additional rest in Ramadan.
Provide
A structured working day with every 3-4 hours of work followed by rest periods. Regular, reasonable working hours. The fact that she is not fasting does not mean that she should work longer hours. An opportunity to discuss cultural and religious aspects related to Ramadan and changes likely to occur in her routine.
Schedule
Her break and rest times clearly and adhere to it. Her break and rest times clearly and adhere to it. Break and rest times that works for you both.
Give
Her the right to pray. She may want to observe night prayers [Taraweeh] in a nearby mosque. Her a clear understanding of the dos and don’ts of Ramadan in the privacy of your home and public spaces. Her the right to pray. Night prayers are specific to Ramadan and a many neighborhood mosques provide women’s prayer facility.
Consider
Ramadan traditions vary from culture to culture. Speak to the household helper about accommodating aspects of her Ramadan culture [like iftar food] into her Ramadan routine here. Making minimal changes to her working day/routine as much as possible. Ramadan traditions vary from culture to culture. Speak to the household helper about accommodating aspects of her Ramadan culture [like iftar/suhoor food] into her Ramadan routine here.

 

 

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East