You have reached the main content

Saudi Arabia Extends Wage Protection System to Domestic Workers

On May 27, 2024

Saudi Arabia will include migrant domestic workers in its Wage Protection System from 1 July 2024, starting with domestic workers hired under new contracts. The WPS mandates that employers pay workers’ wages through bank transfers instead of cash, thereby increasing transparency of salary payments. Saudi will be the first GCC state to require all domestic workers to be paid through the WPS. Previously, the UAE had made WPS mandatory only for certain categories of domestic workers.

For domestic workers with existing contracts, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) announced that the WPS will be implemented in phases based on the number of domestic workers employed by an employer.

  • Starting January 1, 2025: Employers with four or more domestic workers will be required to comply with the WPS.
  • Starting July 1, 2025: The WPS will be extended to employers with three or more domestic workers.
  • Starting October 1, 2025: Employers with two or more domestic workers will be covered by the WPS.
  • By January 1, 2026: All domestic workers must be included in the WPS.

According to the MHRSD, employers must pay workers’ wages through digital wallets and approved banks via the “Musaned” platform. Since April 2022, electronic payment has been an option for domestic workers, but this is the first time Saudi Arabia has made it mandatory for employers to use WPS for paying domestic workers. 

While this is a step in the right direction, the existing WPS has not prevented rampant wage theft for workers under the labour law in Saudi Arabia. The system does seem to register instances of non-payment immediately; instead, action is only taken once workers file cases against their employers.

As MR has previously reported, workers often delay filing complaints in fear of reprisal from their employers, and their companies become financially insolvent in the meantime. The “Wage Protection System”  itself is a misnomer, as the system merely facilitates electronic payment and brings in a level of transparency, but does little to protect the right to due wages. Although Saudi Arabia mandated WPS for all private sector workers at the end of 2020, many cases of non-payment have continued to occur in the Kingdom. 

Migrant domestic workers —  particularly women — face severe challenges that limit the benefits of WPS inclusion.  Domestic workers work long hours, do not always enjoy the mandated weekly off, and when they do are rarely allowed to step outside of the homes alone. Furthermore, access to communication is also a major issue. Workers interviewed by repeatedly mention the confiscation of their phones. Without being able to access banking institutions independently or their phones, workers would be unable to check payments and ensure no unfair deductions have been made. Particularly if the WPS mechanisms do not alert authorities of any inconsistency, workers would also encounter barriers to filing and seeing through complaints. Workers currently depend on employers to remit their money back to their families, both because of need and also because there is no secure way to retain or save in Saudi without fully addressing the nature of domestic worker recruitment and employment, these measures are likely to have limited impact in reducing wage theft.

In its announcement, the MHRSD did not specify the punitive measures for employers who fail to comply with the WPS. Notably, the Saudi government significantly reduced penalties for non-compliance with the WPS by up to 80% in February this year. However, this applies only to those under labour law and does not include domestic workers.

The recruitment of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia increased significantly in recent years, bringing the total to 3.826 million in 2023. Remarkably, about 70% of these workers are men, predominantly employed as drivers and assistants.