By Hani Hazaimeh
AMMAN - Religious freedom, healthcare, 10-hour workdays and one day off per week are among the benefits domestic helpers are entitled to under instructions endorsed by the Cabinet on Tuesday.
The new regulation, aimed to protect the rights of domestic workers, corresponds to a recent amendment to the Labour Law under which domestic helpers and agricultural workers are included, Labour Minister Ghazi Shbeikat said in a meeting with reporters earlier this week.
"The new instruction will help address several problems that used to appear in the past and will also protect workers’ rights in accordance with international human rights standards," Shbeikat said.
To implement the new standards, the ministry will form an ad hoc committee, the Non-Jordanian Domestic Helpers Affairs Committee, comprising representatives from the ministry, the Domestic Helpers Agencies Association and the Public Security Department, the minister said.
Under the new regulations, which will be put into effect after being published in the Official Gazette, employers are required to pay for the domestic helper’s work permit and the issuance of a residency permit.
The worker is entitled to be in contact with her family in her homeland at least once a month at the employer's expense, as well as a decent living situation and freedom to practise her own religion.
When travelling abroad temporarily, employers cannot bring their domestic helpers without their approval and will have to notify the worker's relevant embassy in the Kingdom, according to the regulations.
Moreover, workers are entitled to a 14-day paid annual leave, with the timing agreed between the employer and the worker, in addition to 14 days of paid sick leave per year.
Additionally, employers are not allowed to send their domestic helpers to work in other people's homes.
In return, according to the regulations, domestic helpers must do their job with “utmost integrity and faithfulness, respect the privacy of their workplace and maintain its contents, not reveal the secrets of the house, respect the employer's traditions and culture, and not leave the house without the employer's permission”.
If a domestic helper runs away from her workplace, the employer will not be obligated to fulfil any financial obligations to the worker, nor will the employer bear the expense of sending the domestic helper back to her country.
In case of any complaints reported to the Labour Ministry, the regulations authorise the ministry to dispatch a male and female inspector to the domestic helper's workplace after obtaining the employer’s approval.
If the ministry's inspectors find the employer in violation of the ministry's regulations, the employer will be issued a warning and required to resolve the violation within one week, after which he will be subject to measures stipulated by the Labour Law.