GENEVA, As part of its efforts to protect the rights of contract workers, the UAE has developed a strategy and a plan of action aimed at upholding the rights of expatriate workers in the country, according to a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. A number of steps are being taken to entrench the protection of workers through contractual transparency and improving their living and working conditions.

The report, which was presented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, noted that the UAE is aware of the fact that the relationship with foreign workers is one of mutual benefit as their remittances from the UAE help to grow the economies of their countries of origin and supplement the income of their families.

In the year 2016, a total of US$28 billion was sent from the UAE to the workers' countries of origin of expatriate workers. A lion's share of these remittances was sent to India, Pakistan, Philippines and Bangladesh, the report said.

In a bid to put in place high standards of professional conduct between workers and employers, the UAE Government continues to expand the extent of protection for workers through new legislation and improving the implementation of laws.

The report noted that the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has adopted a "new policy for the recruitment of foreign workers abroad." The policy aims to ensure that "contracts are unambiguous" and comply with "all legislative texts regulating the employment relationship between workers and the employers."

Most notably, the report added, the UAE has promulgated a number of legislative instruments that provide legal safeguards to protect the rights of workers to exercise free will in their decision to work. According to the report, Ministerial Decision No. 765 of 2015 and Ministerial Decision No. 766 of 2015 entrench the principle of work as a choice. In addition, the 2015 Standard Model Work Contract, "affirms that employers are prohibited by the State from seizing workers' passports, and stipulates that the worker enjoys the right to retain his or her identity documents."

On a transnational scale, the UAE continues to support global dialogue in the area of workers' rights as part of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue which saw the adoption of four guidelines for bilateral and multilateral cooperation among Member States in 2017 and 2018 "to facilitate initiatives relating to contractual labour" involving Asian labour-sending and receiving nations.

As for domestic workers, the UAE has introduced major reforms to guarantee their protection. Last year, the responsibility for monitoring the recruitment of domestic workers was shifted from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, which oversees the rights of all other workers in the country.

Source: Emirates News Agency