FRI 25 - 9 - 2020
Date: Apr 19, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
NGO launches contract annex for domestic workers
Timour Azhari| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A local NGO Thursday launched a contract that aims to better regulate the relationship between domestic workers and their employers in Lebanon, in a bid to push back widespread abuse. The document, unveiled by the Insan Association, aims to serve as an annex to the 2009 Standard Unified Contract for domestic workers.

The contract laid out broad protection standards that became mandatory after the Labor Ministry enforced them with a decree.

Domestic workers in Lebanon, most of whom are migrants, are not regulated by the labor code.

Migrant workers instead are tied to their employers in Lebanon through the kafala system, which has been roundly criticized by rights groups for facilitating abuse.

While the 2009 SUC was a landmark at the time, it was broad and left ample room for the abuse of workers’ rights, said Krystelle Karam, a project manager at Alef, a human rights NGO.

This more detailed annex, which Insan is circulating at the embassies of nations with high numbers of migrant workers in Lebanon and hopes to have formally added to the SUC, aims to fill in a lot of those gaps.

“Anything related to stating the rights of workers is very necessary, especially since the Standardized Unified Contract is very vague,” Karam said.

Among other things, the annex sets out what kind of work domestic workers should do, what they can refuse to carry out - including tasks that may harm their health - and the compensation they should receive.

They also have a right to leave the workplace and benefit from a weekly rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours - a luxury for many domestic workers, some of whom do not get a day off. Annual leave was also extended from six days a year to 15, which is standard for many Lebanese employees.

The annex also lays out the responsibilities of employers: They must pay for the return home of migrant workers, and cannot confiscate passports. If a domestic worker suffers a debilitating injury while working for their employer, the employer must pay them the equivalent of one month’s salary for every year they worked with them.

“The problem,” Karam noted, “is the ability for domestic workers to complain. If I can’t leave my house to complain, then what’s the use [of the contract]?”

Roula Hamati, the head of Insan’s advocacy department, told The Daily Star the end goal was to have domestic work regulated by Lebanon’s labor code.

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