Residents planning to sponsor a domestic worker must now earn at least Dh25,000 a month – an increase of almost Dh20,000 – potentially creating childcare issues for thousands of families across the UAE.
The requirement, previously only Dh6,000, will leave those who earn under the threshold unable to sponsor domestic staff.
But experts say the rule change will be a particular blow to working parents who do not meet the salary sponsorship requirements, due to a lack of part time employment options and early school finishing times.
The customer service hotline for Tadbeer, a network of recruitment centres regulated by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said the change was implemented last year.
It applies to domestic service contracts processed through government agencies such as Tadbeer, as well as individual applications via typing centres.
It is understood the requirement applies to the total household income, however, families with combined incomes of more than Dh25,000 a month have struggled to sponsor domestic workers.
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said an application made by her husband, a teacher who earns Dh13,000 a month, was initially refused on the basis of his salary. She also works, and together they earn more than Dh25,000 per month.
“We tried to do it ourselves first through the typing center but it was rejected because of the rule,” she said.
Her husband then applied for the sponsorship through Tadbeer, but it was rejected again on the same basis.
“The application was done through Tadbeer but the rejection came from a government office.
“It seems in Arabic somewhere it mentions family income and not sponsor income, but the people reviewing the documents in one of the government offices assumed as it was sponsor income only.”
The application was eventually approved after the couple proved they collectively earned more than Dh25,000 a month.
“We managed after various visits to all the government offices to make them accept the application using both our salary certificates,” she said.
She said her husband asked a Tadbeer employee what someone would do who earned less than the threshold.
“The guy replied that most of the people coming there have salaries above Dh25,000. My husband is a teacher. Imagine how many teachers are in this country with salaries less than Dh25,000.”
Staff at recruitment agency Quality Domestic Service Workers said the labour ministry can make exemptions for single mothers. But it does not “usually grant approval to hire a maid if the woman is earning less than Dh25,000”.
Agatha, a single, working mother of one who asked not to share her full name, was told by staff at Dubai Municipality Al Manara Centre her salary was too low to employ a domestic worker.
“My salary certificate is too small and I am not able to sponsor a maid under these rules.
“I was advised by Tadbeer that I could apply for an exemption to the rules from the government. But there was no guarantee it would be made.”
Another mother, who did not want to be named, has employed the same woman for five years and called Tadbeer to check what paperwork she needed for the renewal.
“I was told I now needed to earn Dh25,000 if I was to sponsor a new housemaid. They did say if I was renewing the contract of an existing maid, I would not have to show my monthly salary.”
Gina Dillon, an administrator of the UAE Housemaids Facebook group, which helps domestic service workers find positions with families, said the news will be unwelcome to many families with children.
“This will be a big blow to working families with combined incomes that do not reach the income requirement. Alternative options [for childcare] are limited,” she said.
Companies such as Maids.cc offer one such option.
A spokeswoman for the company said it employs domestic workers on behalf of its clients without the need to complete government paperwork.
“All the candidates are under our sponsorship, so a minimum monthly salary is not required.”
The labour ministry was contacted for comment.