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The UAE government is cracking down on agencies which are exploiting labourers and charging them recruitment fees, Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said in his foreword to the UAE’s first annual report on workers’ welfare.
“We can’t deny that many non-national workers have faced in the past many malpractices by recruitment agents,” Ghobash said in the report titled ‘Worker Welfare Report’.“
Consequently, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has been cooperating with countries of origin to improve practices within the recruitment industry as a priority issue… We are immediately taking action and suspending the licences of recruitment agencies that violated recruitment practices,” the minister said.
The 2015 report focuses on measures to ensure that all workers that come to the UAE are recruited and employed equitably, are safe in their place of work, and are free to advance professionally and personally.
“The UAE’s workforce is our greatest asset: the driver of growth that enables economic diversification and secures the future for tomorrow’s generation,” Ghobash said, adding that the ministry has launched a series of initiatives and decrees to promote workers’ welfare in the country, most notably, standardising labour contracts in order to promote clarity and transparency for workers and employers.
“The new decrees enable workers to move freely between employers,” Ghobash said, “as well as evaluating and reviewing every aspect of working in the UAE from recruitment to housing and making significant reforms designed to ensure all workers are treated respectfully at all times, and are able to report instances of maltreatment easily.
”According to Ghobash, the ministry has appointed 63 legal professionals to help resolve labour disputes, and trained 100 members of staff to facilitate the process of dispute resolution. The ministry has also implemented a new, dynamic smart inspection system to enable the inspectors to focus their efforts on higher risk business establishments.
The report begins by describing the UAE’s exponential growth in recent decades as a global centre of commerce and tourism, “which has been achieved thanks to the hard work of millions of people from all over the world”, Ghobash said. He added that “people from all corners of the planet travel to UAE to contribute to its growth, putting their skills to use to build and operate the institutions and infrastructure that are now the lifeblood of the national economy.
“The UAE is proud to host such a diverse, eclectic population. Proud, too, that at a time of economic slowdown in many parts of the world, the United Arab Emirates continued to create jobs and offer opportunities for people to better themselves, and better the prospects of their families and home nations, which directly benefits some of the world’s poorest communities, enabling access to health and education, created sustainable societies, and raised standards of living in recipient countries”.
The report goes on to say that the UAE remains a young country undergoing dramatic change and huge economic growth. That brings significant challenges in terms of the management of the labour market.
“It is vital, however, that all workers in the UAE enjoy employment protections that conform to the highest standards of international best practice and law,” Ghobash said, adding that the ministry undertook significant steps to ensure worker protection, including reviewing legislation and regulatory oversight, improving dispute resolution systems and increasing transparency.
“The ministry continues to closely monitor the practices of recruitment companies and take immediate actions when violations take place,” he said, pointing out that in 2015 the ministry suspended the licences of recruitment agencies that violated recruitment practices.
New Labour Standards
Moving on to describe measures to enhance contract transparency, the report remarks that no employer in the UAE can engage workers against their will or on terms that do not meet UAE labour standards. All employment contracts in the UAE must be consensual by nature and both parties have the right to terminate an employment contract at any time, in accordance with the terms and provisions of the contract.
“Under new standards, the ministry holds employers responsible for attesting in the standard contract to the fact that workers have not been charged any recruitment fee,” Ghobash said, adding that no non-national worker can be recruited from overseas for employment in the UAE until he or she has been presented with a standard job offer that conforms to the UAE Standard Employment Contract (SEC).
The standard job offer is available in eleven languages and must be signed in the employee’s country of origin before his or her work permit can be processed. The ministry also works to ensure that all workers obtain a copy of UAE’s employment law without charge, so that they know their rights
Workers are encouraged to visit a Labour office at any time to report concerns or to ask for guidance on any issue. There are five Labour offices in the UAE — two in Abu Dhabi, two in Dubai and one in Sharjah.