UAE law eases `sponsor` grip on foreign workers

UAE eased its tough rules for foreign workers who want to change employer.

Abu Dhabi: The United Arab Emirates has eased its tough rules for foreign workers who want to change employer, loosening the controversial "sponsor" system in force in the Arab states of the Gulf.

"An employee with an expired contract can obtain a new work permit and shift to another employer" without having to wait six months and have his sponsor`s consent, the labour ministry said.

The new regulation takes effect in January and will "replace the current formalities of transfer of sponsorship for expatriate workers," it said in a statement carried by the Emirati state news agency WAM.

It said the measure applies only if the two contracting parties "have ended their work relationship cordially" and the worker has "worked with his employer for at least two years."
However, if the employer "fails to honour his legal or contractual obligations" or if the contract is proven to have been prematurely terminated" by the employer, the worker will have the right to change jobs.

The sponsorship system practised in the Gulf`s oil-rich Arab states which employ millions of foreigners, mostly Asians, have been heavily criticised by human rights organisations, which likens it to modern-day slavery.

Seen as the cause of most abuses, the system requires each foreign worker to have a "sponsor," usually a local national, who has the right to keep their passport and deny the right to change jobs.
Bahrain was the first to abolish the sponsorship system in August 2009, while Kuwait said it will follow suit in February.

Bureau Report