I'm a maid in Dubai. Am I now allowed to step out of the house amid Covid-19?
Know your legal rights in the UAE.
Q: I am a housemaid working for a Dubai family in the last five years. Since March, my employer has not allowed me to step out of the house because of the coronavirus. But now, as the other members of the family have started going out, I requested my employer to allow me to go out and meet my friends. Does the family have the right to stop me from stepping out? Can they report me to authorities if I step out once in a week on my weekend?
As a housemaid, you are entitled to a day's leave in a week. This is in accordance with Article 12(1) of Federal Law No. (10) of 2017 on Domestic Workers (Domestic Workers Law), which states: "The worker shall have the right to a weekly rest day with a comprehensive wage in accordance with the implementing regulations of this law. He may be employed on his weekly rest day, in which case he shall have the right to an alternative day-off or a monetary allowance."
Based on this provision of the law, on the day of your weekly leave, you may go out to meet your friends. If your employer is not allowing you to step out, it may result in a violation of your personal liberty in accordance with Article 344 (4) and (5) of the Federal Law No. (3) of 1987 on the issuance of the Penal Code. It states: "Whoever illegally kidnaps, arrests, detains or deprives a person of his freedom, whether by himself or through another by any means without lawful justification, shall be punished by term imprisonment."
While a domestic worker must abide by the work-related instructions of the employer, these instructions must not be contrary to law. This is in accordance with Article 16(3) of the Domestic Workers Law, which states: "Comply with the employer's orders for the implementation of the agreed work, unless these orders are contrary to the contract or the law or public order and public morals, or endangers him or exposes him to legal accountability."
Amid the current Covid-19 situation, your employer may be requesting you not to leave the house to ensure your safety and that of her family members. However, it may not be correct on the part of your employer not to allow you to go out during your weekly day-off, since there is no stay-home protocol implemented in Dubai.
You may assure your employer that when you step out, you will be responsible and follow all safety measures, including wearing a mask, observing social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene.
It is the responsibility of both the employer and the domestic worker to abide by health protection protocols. This is in accordance with Article 18 of the Domestic Workers Law, which states: "The employer and the worker must comply with the approved occupational health and safety requirements and the methods of health protection in accordance with the implementing regulations of this law and any other legislation enforced in the state."
In the event your employer does not allow you to step out on your weekly leave, you may approach the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and file a complaint against your employer, if necessary.
Know the law
An employer and a worker must comply with all approved occupational safety requirements and other health protection protocols.
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.
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