New guide to being a better boss

The Ministry of Labour expects this year to issue a guide for employers aimed at reducing labour violations and complaints.

United Arab Emirates - Semeih - Jan 20 - 2010 : Two labour workers pose for a portrait in the room they share with other six workers in a labour camp for Indians and Bangladesh workers. They haven't receive their payment in 4 or 5 months. They are carpenters and were working in Saadiyat Island.( Jaime Puebla / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  JP labour camps 02.jpg

In recognition that it takes two sides to generate labour strife, the Ministry of Labour expects this year to issue a guide for employers aimed at reducing labour violations and complaints. Qasem Jamil, the director of the ministry's guidance department, said the guide would be used to improve communication among the ministry, workers and employers.

"Throughout our campaigns we realised that there is a direct connection between the increased level of awareness and the decreased level of labour disputes," Mr Jamil said. "We also saw that there is a need not to only educate workers but also employers on the rights and duties of the other party. So we decided to create this guidebook." The guide will include information intended to educate employers about their rights as well as duties, and provide the knowledge needed to avoid violations.

The goal is to improve the conditions of the labour market and reduce the number of labour complaints, labour protests and illegal labourers, Mr Jamil said. The guide will include details about labour law, ministry procedures and how to deal with workers, and will be distributed to companies across the country. On Sunday, the Ministry of Interior released its own guidebook, explaining the rights and responsibilities of workers.

The Worker: Rights and Duties, was published in Arabic, English, Tagalog, Chinese, Urdu and Farsi. It will be distributed to federal government departments, non-governmental organisations and at labour accommodations, according to WAM, the state news agency. The book is intended to help workers "stay under the umbrella of the law", said Lt Col Salah al Gul, the director of the Office of Culture of Respect for Law.

The guidelines reflect UAE law, and let workers know they have the right to practise their religion. Authorities hope the book will help prevent worker exploitation with a better understanding of the law. It tells workers they should show their identification only to concerned authorities and not anyone who asks. Workers also have the right to file a complaint if an offence has been committed against them.

In addition, when talking to authorities, workers have the right to a translator and documents must be read aloud before a worker is asked to sign. A spokesman for Valley of Love, a Dubai-based social organisation that offers assistance to workers, said that while he had not yet received a copy of the booklet, he welcomed it. He added that requiring translators was a useful rule. "A majority of the workers here don't speak Arabic or English," he said. "And we commend the ministry for suggesting that there should be translators present and employees who can direct a worker in the right direction and tell them what steps to follow."

He said information for workers was often hard to come by and a comprehensive guide helped them understand "what their first port of call should be when they are looking to lodge a complaint because the system - remains unclear". Last year the Ministry of Labour issued its own booklet for workers: The Guidebook for the Temporary Workforce. The booklet was issued in Arabic, English, Urdu, Hindi, Sinhalese, Bengali and Malayalam. More than 250,000 booklets were distributed in labour camps, airports, malls and labour offices. A number of booklets were also distributed at embassies of the main labour-exporting countries, Mr Jamil said.

The Ministry of Labour intends to issue an updated edition of the booklet this year.