Private maid recruitment companies in the UAE can remain open as affiliates to government-run Tadbeer centres and work as "internal recruiters" if they follow specific guidelines.
Companies that do not meet this requirement have been closed or given until the end of next month to cease operations.
Last month, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said all non-government maid hiring agencies would be closed by March to protect the rights of workers and more tightly regulate the industry.
Nada Omar, manager of Maidfinder.ae, a website that matches domestic workers with employers, said private companies were given three years to conform to the 2017 domestic workers law.
"Once Tadbeer came into the picture [in 2017], agencies were given grace period to either get a Tadbeer licence or shut down. By March, the government will close whoever is left without the proper licence," she said.
Her company secured Tadbeer affiliation two years ago for its database service. They assess maids in the country, give clients access to resumes and can secure a Tadbeer-approved residency visa.
Three options facing private agencies
A Tadbeer agent said private maid agencies were given three options: close down, switch from maid-recruitment to cleaning or other services, or affiliate with Tadbeer.
He said about 90 per cent of Tadbeer centres were previously private agencies.
These recruit workers from abroad or the UAE to Tadbeer but cannot deal directly with clients.
“Some of those agencies have existed for decades and they have thorough experience in finding and recruiting maids,” said the agent, who asked not to be named.
After the agency finds a worker, Tadbeer handles the clients and contracts.
"For one-year or more contracts, I am obliged to provide a two-year insurance for the client, in case the maid runs away, is no longer able to work or refuses to do her job,” the agent said.
UAE residents and Emiratis can also hire maids from within the country themselves before visiting a Tabdeer centre or immigration office to regularise the worker's visit visa or change the sponsorship of a housemaid's visa.
The National contacted the ministry to ask the criteria for agents to become Tadbeer-affiliated.
Officials had said private maid hiring agencies in free zones would not be affected by last month's decision but no further information are available.
Small agents faced with costly affiliation
Abu Alaa, an agent in Ajman, works with a small recruitment agency that has been operating for 30 years. The owner will wait until March to see what options are available.