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Saudi obliges recruitment agencies to receive and shelter newly deployed female domestic workers 

On July 12, 2019

Saudi’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development recently announced that recruitment agencies must receive female domestic workers arriving for the first time to the Kingdom at the airport, and provide them with accommodation before they begin employment. 

Recruitment agencies must also inform the employer 24 hours prior to the arrival of the domestic worker, and take her to the employer within 24 hours of arrival. According to Okaz, a fine of 5,000 Saudi Riyals will be imposed on any sponsor who directly receives female domestic workers arriving for the first time to Saudi.  Recruitment agencies who pick-up first-time domestic workers late (after 24 hours) will also be fined. 

The new Ministerial Resolution (No. 172489) also stipulates that from July 15, 2019, employers will be fully responsible for receiving returning domestic workers from the airport.

This move is likely motivated by reducing the government's cost of sheltering workers; previously, if employers did not receive domestic workers within 12 hours of arrival,  the worker would be sent to the government shelter. If the sponsor failed to show up after one month, the Centre for Domestic Workers Affairs either transferred the worker’s sponsorship or repatriated them based on their request.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development also recently implemented a new unified recruitment contract which fines recruitment agencies 30% of the value of the contract if a domestic worker’s arrival is delayed by over 90 days. The contract also places all financial and legal commitments on the recruitment agency if an employer refuses to accept the domestic worker.

Small recruitment agencies in Saudi have complained that the new policy will increase the cost of recruitment and that it will benefit larger agencies. In the wake of this new policy, 80 recruitment agents in the Eastern province held negotiations to raise capital in order to establish a privatized domestic workers shelter for recruitment agencies in the region.