The UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC) just passed a draft law to protect the rights of domestic workers in the country, The National reported on Wednesday.
According to the English daily, "the bill was approved after a six-hour debate that began late on Tuesday night."
Even though it still requires final approval by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan before it becomes an official law, it's considered a major step forward for the country.
The new legislation calls for better work conditions for domestic workers including giving them a weekly day off, granting them paid leave for 30 days, and providing them at least 12 hours off duty a day.
Under it, domestic workers will also have the right to keep their personal documents including passport, ID card and work permit.
The aim behind the latest legislation is to protect the rights of domestic workers and shield them from physical and verbal abuse.
Law passed after heated debate
The approval of the federal law by the NFC came after a heated debate that saw members divided over whether domestic workers should be allowed to leave their sponsor’s home without permission.
"If I have a maid and I allowed her to go out, she will get involved in illicit relationships and tomorrow she will come back to me pregnant,"(SIC) Sharjah representative and vocal critic of the draft law, Mohammed Al Ketbi said.
Al Ketbi also added that he was less concerned about male domestic workers leaving their sponsor's homes, saying "I am only concerned with maids."
Many disagreed with Al Ketbi, including UAE's Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash who said that it was unacceptable to expect employees to ask for permission to leave their sponsor's house.
FNC member Dr Saeed Al Mutawa also spoke out on this specific clause, saying: "Every human has the right to go out, this is not prison. This should not be negotiated."
A law that's been years in the making
The draft law, which covers 19 domestic roles, has been years in the making.
It was previously passed by the FNC in 2012, but not signed by the President.
Instead, it was sent to the Ministry of Labor to amend some of the clauses, and has now finally been approved by the FNC.