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Kuwait’s MPs pass laws to regulate domestic helpers – MPs vote to establish human rights body

KUWAIT: In another marathon session, the National Assembly yesterday passed in principle three key legislations regulating the affairs of domestic helpers and establishing a shareholding company for their recruitment in addition to establishing the national human rights commission.

The law on domestic helpers is the first legislation in the country to provide full legal protection to hundreds of thousands of maids in Kuwait. So far, a decision issued by the Interior Ministry is the only legal framework for maids.

The second and final vote is expected to take place next week for the law which grants domestic helpers unprecedented rights including limiting daily working hours to eight, a mandatory weekend and a 30-day paid annual leave.

For the first time, the law sets a minimum wage of KD 45 monthly for maids who are entitled to demand overtime for working extra hours.

The law bans the employment of maids under 20 years and above 50 years of age. It also stipulates one maid for families of up to four, two maids for families comprising five to eight members and three maids for families consisting of more than eight people.

The law also stipulates for the first time an end of service indemnity for maids equal to a month’s pay for each year of service. The law applies to private drivers, maids, baby sitters and cooks.

The Assembly also passed another law calling to set up a shareholding company to recruit domestic helpers by replacing over 300 private offices which have been blamed for the skyrocketing cost of the recruitment and alleged abuses of maids.

Under the law, 60 percent of the proposed company’s shares will be given to union of cooperative societies and 10 percent each for four government agencies including Kuwait Investment Authority, Public Institution for Social Security, Public Authority for Minors Affairs and Kuwait Airways. But the approval of the two laws was preceded by strong exchanges by a number of MPs especially on the second law.

MPs Saadoun Hammad and Khalil Al-Saleh said they will resign from the Health and Labor Committee after the Assembly withdrew the law from their panel and entrusted it to the Financial Affairs Committee. Hammad strongly opposed the establishment of the company and defended the private recruitment offices. Several other MPs also said the proposed company will not be able to reduce the costs.

The Assembly also passed a law to establish the National Human Rights Commission despite reservations by the government whose ministers abstained from voting. Justice Minister Yacoub Al-Sane said the government will not accept a clause giving immunity to the commission’s board and to another giving them judicial powers. The commission is formed as an independent human rights body but under the umbrella of the council of ministers.

The appointment of its president and his deputy requires the approval of the National Assembly. The Assembly also approved the development plan for the 2016/2017 fiscal year which envisages capital spending of over KD 5 billion to finance over 300 projects

By B Izzak

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This article was published on 17/06/2015