Though many of us in the UAE have become accustomed to having cleaning help around the house, a subject that isn’t often given much thought is the legality of the maids we’re hiring.
Particularly in Dubai, with its high percentage of expats and high number of foreign cleaners, individuals are often unaware of the law when it comes to hiring maids. This means that – whether deliberately or unknowingly – many people that hire home help are not doing so legally.
However, this blissful ignorance can easily be cut short in a dramatic and expensive fashion. Fines for employing illegal workers can reach up to 100,000 AED, and can also risk you a prison sentence. Quite a price to pay for help with the chores.
“But how would the authorities find out?”, is the common mentality among those who know, and choose to ignore, the law. Although rare, the Interior Ministry can conduct random checks on your home and, if illegal workers are discovered, you can be subject to the severe punishments that come with hiring illegal home help.
But more commonly, the authorities find out at what could be described as the worst possible time: when your maid breaks or steals something valuable in your home, and you wish to report it. Cases of theft in particular are a common problem experienced by scores of employers of illegal workers. In fact, the Acting Director of the Dubai Police Criminal Investigation Department has previously stated that “the category of illegal workers comes top on the list of theft crimes in the country”.
So for those of us unaware of the laws, particularly amongst the expat community, how can you find out whether you’ve unwittingly employed an illegal home worker?
The answer is simple. All expatriate workers – as cleaners so often are – in the UAE must have an entry permit for employment purposes, a work permit, and a residence visa.
When it comes to maids, there are two options: either you sponsor this visa yourself, or employ the maid through an agency who sponsor their visa. These two options are the only legal methods of employing home help in UAE.
Maid agencies and cleaning companies, such as Helpling, are a particularly popular choice for those who don’t require a live-in maid. Hiring part-time cleaners through these agencies is a much simpler process than the bureaucracy of sponsoring a visa, and can be a convenient solution for those wishing to stay on the right side of the law with minimal hassle.
When it comes to live-in help, the two options have their own merits. Whilst maid agencies for live-in help do often charge a fee (whether it’s to the employer or to the maid), this cuts out much of the paperwork required when sponsoring your maid’s visa personally. As is often the case, convenience costs.
So whether you already have professional help with all of those chores, or are considering your options before taking the plunge, assess things carefully. The risk of fines, prison, and thefts and breakages that have to go unreported should be a strong deterrent, and make us all think twice before hiring illegal maids to take care of one of the most important aspects of your life: your home.