The United Arab Emirates is introducing new labour reforms on Tuesday, aimed at tightening oversight of employment agreements for the millions of temporary migrant workers who make up the large portion of the country's workforce.
New legislation will let foreign workers to end their contracts if conditions are changed without workers’ permission and will give them a right to accept other jobs.
Emirati Labour Minister Saqr Ghobash said in a press conference; "We want to close the door on those who trick the simple worker."
New reforms will be provided by “kafala system” starting 1 January which allow foreign workers to dissolve their employment contract and change their jobs by approval of the labour ministry.
Ghobash thanks this new system, where employees’ contracts will be handled by labour ministry rather than employers thus “involuntary labour” will be restricted.
"The worker cannot, under any circumstances, be made to, or otherwise be compelled to remain in an employment relation," a ministry statement said.
According to new labour law, foreign workers would sign one contract including pay, job role, designation, hours of work and other conditions and these should be pointed out in workers’ language and the contract cannot be changed after the arrival of the employee in the UAE.
Foreign workers especially from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Philippines had to work under hard conditions from construction to oil industry in the UAE.
Nicholas McGeehan, a UAE researcher at Human Rights Watch, says the new labour reform is "a huge improvement and something we would fully support and applaud" and adds that it was "good to see" the UAE feeling the need to reform.