The Special Working Contract for Non-Jordanian Domestic Workers
The contract provides a common set of minimum standards to protect migrant domestic workers.
Activities, processes and steps involved:
In Jordan, migrant domestic workers, who are predominately women, confront a number of labour and human rights violations, including overwork, non-payment of wages, restrictions on mobility and communication, and physical and sexual abuse. These violations are widespread, partially due to the fact that Jordan, like many other Arab countries, excludes domestic workers (whether Jordanian or foreign) from the provisions of national labour laws. The Special Working Contract attempts to guarantee these workers certain rights through the establishment of a standard and unified contract.
In 2001, the Ministry of Labour signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), agreeing to participate in the Empowering Women Migrant Workers in Asia programme and to initiate new regulations with the support and cooperation of UNIFEM. This programme covered Nepal, Indonesia, and the Philippines as countries of origin and Jordan as a country of destination.
Under the guidance of UNIFEM, the Ministries of Interior and Labour, the police department, NGOs, and the Embassies of Sri Lanka and the Philippines formed a steering committee to negotiate the terms of the contract.
In 2003, the Jordanian government approved the Special Working Contract for Non-Jordanian Domestic Workers, making it the primary document governing the relationship between employer, employment agency, and worker.
The Special Working Contract contains a number of important provisions, relating to the responsibilities of employers and employment agencies and the rights of migrant domestic workers. These are:
- The employer agrees to cover the cost of the return ticket, work and residency permits.
- The employer agrees to provide the worker with food, lodging, clothing, and medical care.
- The worker should keep her passport in her possession.
- The worker should only work in the employer's household.
- The employer must not place any restrictions on the worker's ability to communicate with people outside the household.
- The worker has the right to one day of weekly rest.
It is important to note that the contract only appears in English and Arabic. However, in 2006, the Ministry of Labour created a guide for migrant domestic workers translated into the languages of origin countries (Sinhalese, Tagalog, and Indonesian, as well as English and Arabic). The Ministry of Labour is now requiring all employment agencies to distribute the guide to newly-arrived migrant workers.
Migrant domestic workers in Jordan
Employers of migrant and national domestic workers in Jordan
Private employment agencies
A steering committee (composed of representatives from Government agencies, women organizations, UNIFEM, and the Embassies of Sri Lanka and the Philippines) negotiated the provisions of the contract.
Relevant criteria for assessment
1. Respect for migrant worker rights:
The practice promotes and protects the rights of migrant domestic workers. It makes illegal the practice of retaining workers' passports and placing restrictions on their ability to communicate with people outside the household of the employer, as well as employing the worker outside the employer's home. Additionally, it requires the employer to provide the employee with a return ticket, adequate accommodation, food, and medical care, to acquire the necessary work and residence permits and to pay the salary to which the worker agreed when in her country of origin.
The practice clearly addresses the protection gaps that migrant domestic workers face in Jordan. The contract includes provisions against the retention of workers' passports, employment outside of the employer's home, and requires that the worker receives one rest day per week, all of which respond to problems highlighted by migrant domestic workers in Jordan.
3. (Positive) Impact:
The Special Working Contract ensures a minimum of rights and working conditions for migrant domestic workers, whose employment is often considered informal and a private matter. It makes employers and recruitment agents liable for some of the most common violations, thus providing employees with a legal means to challenge abusive treatment.
4. Potential for replication and extension (adaptability):
The practice has a high potential for replication and extension and can serve as a model for other countries contemplating the introduction of a standard contract for migrant domestic workers.
5. Broad-based and participatory:
The practice involved a range of stakeholders, including countries of origin. Nonetheless, the steering committee failed to involve migrant associations in the process.
The Special Working Contract contributes to increasing the protection and rights of migrant domestic workers by making employers and recruitment agents liable for contract violations. The Ministry of Labour, in coordination with other relevant government agencies, is charged with following up on reports of violations made by individual workers and Embassies on the behalf of their nationals and with assisting in mediating disputes. It has also setup a hotline and email address for reporting on violations, with translation services available in several languages, including Indonesian, Sinhalese, Tagalog, Chinese, and Hindi, in addition to Arabic.
The contract remains silent on maximum work hours, overtime pay, right to privacy and freedom of mobility. The contract requires a worker to seek her employer's permission to leave the household. Moreover, the Special Working Contract is based on civil law. As such, contract violations do not carry the same level of consequences or penalties as would violations of the labour law.
- Ministry of Labour, Special Working Contract for Non-Jordanian Domestic Workers (Amman, Jordan, 2003).
- Ministry of Labour, Guide for Women Migrant Domestic Workers in Jordan (UNIFEM: Amman, Jordan, 2006).
- Firas Ta'amneh, Law and Practice on International Labour Migration: Jordan ¿ A Case Study, background paper presented during the ILO General Discussion on Migrant Workers, September 2003. (unpublished).
- Simel Esim and Monica Smith (eds.), Gender and Migration in the Arab World: The Case of Domestic Workers (Beirut, ILO, 2004),
- Tricked and Trapped: Human Trafficking in the Middle East