Some of us are lucky to have a helping hand at home. Domestic helpers cook, clean and make life easier for us. Their support saves our time and ensures a comfortable stay at home. They become an indispensable part of our life but we only realise their importance when they are away. It is therefore our responsibility to make sure that they are well taken care of. We should extend the same type of care to them that we receive from our employers. Health insurance is one of the benefits that they should be entitled to.
One has to bear in mind that domestic workers generally come from developing countries. Asia is the largest source of domestic workers who cater to developed regions such as Singapore, the UAE and Malaysia. The workers mostly come from Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Indonesia. Providing them with health insurance can help ameliorate their standards of living.
There are different ways to hire domestic helpers and maids in the UAE. One way is to hire via agencies on an hourly or part-time basis. This is convenient when one is looking for services such as babysitting and cleaning. The main advantage of this method is that the agency is responsible for sponsoring the helpers, thus the burden does not fall on the employer. However, most people hire domestic helpers on a full-time basis. The agencies arrange for the visa and travel, and of course charge a commission for their services. The employer is responsible for all expenses, including sponsorship and insurance. In some cases, maids are readily available in Dubai, but more often than not, there is a waiting period of a few weeks to hire one.
Compliance with The Law
Ignoring health insurance can be costly. When someone decides to hire a domestic worker from abroad, they have to account for the costs associated with the visa, travel fare, accommodation and monthly salary. People tend to forget about medical coverage which is not only important for the wellbeing the domestic helper but also to prevent unpleasant surprises arising from incurred medial costs that the sponsor would be responsible for.
Developed nations like Singapore have taken the necessary steps to develop schemes that aim to protect domestic workers. They’ve made it compulsory for sponsors to buy medical insurance for their domestic workers. Helpers have to do a medical test since most of them are considered migrants. They can only work only if they get the “fit” certificate. In Singapore, Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) are entitled to at least one day of rest per week.
Similarly, the Indian Government has moved to support those in need. It launched a scheme named Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) that aims to provide health insurance coverage for those who are below the poverty level (BPL). This has benefited domestic workers in the country as well. They are now entitled to up to INR 30,000 in coverage in case of hospitalisation. Unfortunately, there is still no law requiring sponsors to purchase health insurance policy for their domestic helpers.
Abu Dhabi has its own rules when it comes to hiring a domestic worker. Providing a basic health insurance policy is mandatory and the plans are subsidised by the government. Sponsors can purchase medical coverage for their helpers from Daman, the government affiliated health insurance company.
The Dubai Health Authority has also taken the initiative to make sure that dependents also have health insurance. The Authority passed a law to ensure that any worker in Dubai has medical coverage. Unlike Abu Dhabi, basic insurance in Dubai can be purchased from one of the eleven Participating Insurers. However, an employer can apply for the government medical card for their workers which allows them to get admitted to governmental hospitals.
Mandatory health coverage for domestic helpers in Dubai falls under the general health insurance scheme that seeks to ensure coverage for the entire population, the deadline for which was June 30th, 2016. The final phase of the scheme covered smaller employers with less than 100 employees including dependents and domestic helpers. However, the good news is that a grace period of six months has been given for dependents and domestic workers, meaning that fines will not be imposed until the start of 2017.
Sponsors can purchase Essential Benefits Plans (EBP) from the Participating Insurers if the domestic workers are making less than AED 4,000 per month. The EBP caters to lower salary band employees and dependents in the UAE. It should be noted that the EBP is a very basic plan that only helps in reducing costs associated with health checks and treatments. Furthermore, the plan is valid only within the UAE. Treatment outside the emirates should be avoided. It is also important to note that the employer cannot pass on the cost of medical coverage over to the workers, meaning that the sponsor has to cover the full cost of the insurance policy. However, the basic plans are quite cheap. They start at AED 550-650 per year.