Bahrain’s Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced today that it will resume issuing work permits for domestic workers starting from Monday, 14 September, after several months of interruption due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The LMRA also noted that it’s currently coordinating with registered recruitment offices in taking necessary health and safety precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. In this regard, the LMRA warned against hiring domestic workers from unregistered recruitment agencies or cleaning companies, stressing that employers must only hire domestic workers from the list of accredited recruitment agencies on its website, which is updated on a weekly basis.
But such measures may be limited as Bahrain still allows employers to directly hire domestic workers locally or from the country of origin without using a recruitment agency.
Direct recruitment of domestic workers in Bahrain is a loophole that allows employers and unregistered brokers to bypass the LMRA’s recruitment regulations.
In 2018, the head of the Bahrain Association of Recruitment Agencies, Aqeel Al Mahari, stated that irregular recruitment agents control 80% of the country’s domestic workers’ market and “pose the greatest threat to the regular recruitment agents” in Bahrain.
Poor legal protection for domestic workers
Bahrain is the first and only Gulf country that has partially incorporated domestic workers into its labour law, entitling domestic workers to paid annual leave and access to mediation in case of labour disputes. However, domestic workers remain excluded from critical protections, such as a fixed minimum wage, limits on working hours, mandatory rest hours and a weekly day off.
Bahrain has also not implemented a wage protection system for domestic workers.
In 2017, the LMRA announced a tripartite standard contract, which requires employers to stipulate working hours, rest days, and days off. However, the employer remains free to determine or interpret these conditions with no restrictions. Furthermore, the tripartite standard contract is only mandatory when hiring domestic workers through a registered agency, allowing those who hire domestic workers directly to bypass signing a standard contract.