Finding a maid in Dubai
We take an in-depth look at domestic help in the city
For many families in Dubai, a domestic helper, whether a nanny or a maid, is an essential part of home life. However, according to a recent KHDA report, over 90 per cent of maids in the UAE are routinely responsible for their sponsor’s children – yet a large proportion of staff are unqualified to do so. ‘In my opinion, a housemaid is someone who helps with the domestic chores around the house, whereas a nanny is a fully qualified person whose duties do not include housework but to devote time to the children of the family, assisting in their development, upbringing and education,’ says Dave Courtnell, director of Howdra, a British owned and operated family maid and maintenance business.
Employment laws and red tape
All domestic helpers must be employed with a visa, either from the family who is employing them, or through a reputable agency, which must be applied for through the Dubai Naturalisation & Residency Department (04 313 9999). Currently, the costs include a Dhs5,200 residency visa and Dhs2,000 deposit, as well as medical fees, typing and translation costs (for more information, visit www.dubai.ae). However, according to Gulf News, a draft law is looking to reduce these costs. There are strict laws in place to prevent households from hiring domestic helpers on a casual basis – with fines of up to Dhs50,000 for employing a worker that is not sponsored by you, cash in hand, or on a visit visa, while the domestic helper could face imprisonment, deportation and fines of up to Dhs100,000. There are also fines in place against employers who allow their helpers to work cash in hand or part-time for other families. ‘It is illegal to employ a neighbour’s maid or anyone else part time that doesn’t come through an agency,’ warns Dave. ‘This can lead to very heavy fines and criminal action – the authorities do carry out spot checks. Also, it is important to know who you are letting in your house – by going through the right channels you have legal rights should something go wrong.’
Finding the perfect helper
There are a number of ways to find a full time maid, whether it is through word of mouth, or placing an advert on the likes of Dubizzle or Expatwoman (in our experience, it is always best to get a personal recommendation from somebody you know). Always ask for references at the interview stage, and ensure that you find out as much about their background as possible before you commit. ‘Find out whether the person really wants to be here,’ advises Dave. ‘Are they aware of what the job entails, do they have experience, or are they willing to learn or to go on training? Are there any religious issues to take into account, and what kind of social life do they expect as part of their employment contract?’ He recommends that the job requirements should be discussed in full at the first interview, including hours of work, break allocation and the general family routine.
Agencies can take the headache out of sourcing a home help, but will naturally cost more at this initial stage. ‘An agency can take away the stress of dealing with paperwork, plus they will usually be able to offer a replacement employee should she not fit into the family,’ explains Dave. ‘A good agency will give the client the choice of interviewing more than one maid, and they should also supply training and inductions to all new staff, as well as basic medical cover, gratuity and flight home at the end of the contract.’
What are domestic helpers entitled to?
On top of accommodation and salary, if you employ a maid or nanny yourself, they are entitled to food (or a food allowance), toiletries, and overtime as per your contract. All visa costs, including medical, flights home, medical care and end of contract gratuity must be accounted for, too. Currently, the labour law for domestic workers stipulates that domestic staff can work up to eight hours per day (this can be split with breaks), six days per week, with a maximum of two hours of overtime per day.
Time Out Dubai,