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Maids in Bahrain (Domestic Help)

House workers usually come to Bahrain with the help of recruiting agents or through relatives and friends. In the first case, a woman seeking a job as a domestic helper applies to one of the recruiting agents in her country of origin. This agent works as a mediator between the applicant and the agent in the receiving country, in this case Bahrain. The latter keeps the worker's personal details and documentation in file to be shown to potential employers.

When the employer obtains a work permit from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, he selects a candidate from the recruitment agent's file. He pays a fee to the agent, which includes the cost of a one-way air ticket. Subsequently, the agent makes the necessary travel arrangements, in coordination with his counterpart in the sending country. The worker also pays fees to the agent in her country. In some occasions, it happens that the agent exploit the applicants and make them pay the air ticket, even though this is provided by the employer.

In order to be able to employ a foreign house worker, the sponsor in Bahrain has to fulfil certain conditions and requirements stipulated by law. Order Number 13/1976 issued by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs states, "… An employer who wishes to employ non-Bahraini workers should submit an application in the prescribed form, for obtaining a work permit". Although the Labour Law does not cover domestic workers, employers are required to comply with the above regulation.

Moreover the employer who wishes to recruit a household worker should fulfil the following conditions:

* Have a family income of at least BD. 350;
* Have at least two children less than 15 years of age;
* Submit a medical certificate if a house worker is appointed to take care of an ill or old family member;
* The family should prove that they do not have a household worker. In case the previous worker has left or run away, appropriate certificates from the police and/or the Directorate of Immigration and Passports should be submitted to the concerned authorities at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in order to obtain a work permit for a new domestic worker.

After a work permit is obtained, the employer selects a candidate and then obtains an entry visa, called a No Objection Certificate (NOC), for the prospective worker. Once the domestic worker arrives in Bahrain, the agent takes her to his office from where she is collected by the employer. Before she goes to her employer's house, a short meeting is held between the three parties where the employer states his conditions, mainly dos and don'ts. The house worker is also asked if she wants to say anything but, according to the agents, she usually keeps silent. The NOC gives the worker the right to stay in the country for four weeks, this period should allow for the regulation of her stay. Before the end of four weeks of his/her arrival the worker has to undergo a mandatory medical check-up including chest X-ray, blood, urine, vision tests etc. Special attention is paid to infectious diseases mainly tuberculosis, hepatitis, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis. He/she is then issued a written medical certificate stating that he/she is physically fit for work. The employer can, then, go ahead and apply for a residency permit. In case the worker is found unfit for work, the employer is notified. Rigorous action is taken in case the worker is found to suffer from an infectious disease. Ministerial Order Number 11/1976 states that if the Medical Commission finds the worker neither physically fit nor free from infectious diseases, the Commission shall notify the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of this fact within 24 hours. The Ministry of Labour then requests the Directorate of Immigration and Passports to deport the worker at the employer's expense.

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