Domestics including maids and drivers are not optimistic that sponsors will respect the new labor law passed by the government.
They say sponsors are not abiding by current legislation and are therefore unlikely to implement the new rules.
The Cabinet passed the new labor law earlier this week, which provides an estimated 2 million domestics nine-hour rest a day, one day off, medical leave and one month paid vacation every two years. There are also penalties of up to SR10,000 and a lifetime recruitment ban for employers breaking the law repeatedly.
“We don’t expect maids to be treated differently. What we have seen so far is many laws that are not followed or respected by (sponsors),” said Sa’dia Ebry, an Ethiopian maid working for a Syrian family.
She added that she has worked for several families that have failed to stick to contractual agreements. The families pay the agreed SR800 a month but then ignore other parts of the contract that stipulates an eight-hour working day and one day off.
She said such behavior from sponsors force “many domestic workers to escape or find work with expat families.”
Atef Majdi, an Egyptian guard, said his sponsor, a Saudi property owner, violated their contract because he was initially asked to only work eight hours a day at one building.
“When I started work, I found that I had to work at two buildings. In addition, the building owner ordered me to wash the cars of 32 tenants of one building. This job is really hard and takes between four to six hours a day. In addition, I have to do other tasks,” he said.
“When I was told to supervise the two buildings, I didn’t get a day off. In addition, I was told to serve the owner’s family.”
Majdi said it was unlikely the new laws would be implemented because the old ones were not respected.
Mulla Hassan, a Pakistani driver, said his initial job for a Saudi family did not work out because the contract was not honored. He is now happily working for a Swedish engineer.
“When I started working for the Swedish family, I got extra money even though there was no work contract. Furthermore, they respect working hours and don’t let me work more than eight hours a day.
“In addition, I was getting two days off a week. They pay my salary even when I’m off for medical reasons. I have never seen Arab families treat their workers like this,” he said.
Mulla said he does not want to work for Arab families because he cannot “trust” them. “I am ready to work with foreign families until the end of my life.”
Mulla said that sponsors violate the law further by holding the passports of their workers.