The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment (MoICE) is allowing Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) who will be engaged in caregiving for the elderly, sick and differently-abled household members.
This is separate from the Foreign Child Caregiver (FCC) approved so far who are only for parents with young children.
The MoICE has started accepting applications for FDWs from households requiring it from 8 September onwards. The scope of employment for FDWs shall be strictly confined to the particular household.
The Department of Labour (DoL) has approved 67 Foreign Child Caregiver (FCC), and so far, no application has been received for FDWs. The employer or Foreign Worker Recruitment Agencies (FWRAs) has the option to apply online to the Chief Labour Administrator of DoL and Department of Immigration (DoI) for their approvals.
The employer has to either handle the recruitment process for FDW independently or utilize FWRAs to assist with sourcing and hiring.
The FWRA are placed in the south in places like Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, Phuentsholing and Samtse.
The Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Sangay Dorji, said there are employers who set out to find the suitable workers independently.
Sangay Dorji shared that although there is a high demand for child care givers or domestic workers, however, sourcing the workers is the main issue. Many employers are finding it difficult to look for the workers.
“Though our nearest source is from India, however, most the workers are going to the Middle-East looking for better opportunities. Further, most of the workers do not prefer working in the internal part of the country or faraway places from the border areas. They prefer flexible places where they would have opportunities to visit their homes,” the CLO said.
He said it is a mandatory requirement of the employer to sign a contract of employment with the FDW at the point of entry with Regional Office of Industry, Commerce and Employment (ROICE). The employer also has to sign an undertaking letter for FDW.
In order to employ FDWs, the employer must be a Bhutanese citizen or an international resident, residing in the country.
A foreigner applying for FDW must possess a valid voter card or passport, be medically fit and have a clean record with no adverse history.
The foreign applicant seeking to work as FDW, who meets the medical fitness requirements and fulfilling all immigration formalities, will undergo the necessary procedures for obtaining a work permit.
The final approval or rejection of the foreigner’s application will be determined in accordance with the prevailing immigration laws.
The recruitment of the FDW shall be for a period of three consecutive years, subject to the annual renewal of the work permit. It is the responsibility of the employer to renew the work permit annually before 14 days of expiry of the validity.
Failing to apply for renewal on time will be subject to penalties and repatriations in accordance with immigration laws.
Prior to the FDWs commencing work with the employer, both the employer and the FDW are required to sign an agreement that specifies that FDW shall be strictly confined to the particular household work including caregiving for elderly, sick and differently-abled household members.
The FDW is permitted to be transported exclusively by authorized transporters or in vehicles belonging to the employer or immediate family members of the employer. Family to comply with this provision will be dealt with according to the Regulation of Foreign Workers Management, 2022.
The transporters are expected to diligently complete all necessary formalities at each checkpoint while transporting FDW from the WMC to the workplace or from the workplace to the Port of Exit.
The employer must provide FDW with suitable accommodation and reasonable privacy, and ensure that the FDW work and live in the employer’s specified residence as mentioned on the work permit.
The employer should ensure that the FDW does not seek other employment with anyone else during their stay in the country and within the contract period, as the FWD is prohibited from working for any other household, including those of immediate family members, who are not residents of the employer.
If the previous employer does not require FDW any longer, the FDW will be allowed to transfer from one employer to another with prior approval from CLA/ DoL.
The employer shall pay the FDW a salary that has been agreed by both the parties in the Contract of Employment, and facilitate the FDW to open a bank account and the wages must be paid or transferred directly into the personal bank account payment of the FDW.
The working conditions, health and safety measures, compensation, and benefits for the FDW must adhere to the standards set forth in the Labour and Employment Act, 2007, and its accompanying regulations.
The employer has the responsibility to safeguard the FDW from exploitation, abuse, discrimination, etc. If any unfortunate incidents occur, the employer will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the relevant laws of the country and appropriate actions will be taken. The employer has to facilitate to withhold health contributions and taxes from the FDW and remit these amounts to the government if applicable.
The employer is responsible to assist FDW in obtaining a SIM card to ensure effective communication between the FDW and their families residing abroad.
The employer shall facilitate the proper exit and entry of FDW through the designated Port of Exit and Entry.
The FDW is required to pay health contribution, PF and other relevant taxes if applicable.
DoL is to carry out regular inspections or ad hoc visits to employer’s residence during reasonable hours to evaluate working conditions, living arrangements, and the overall treatment of FDW.
DoL maintains an accessible avenue for FDWs to voice grievances or concerns. The personal information provided by FDWs during the recruitment and employment process will be confidential. This is to ensure that this sensitive data remains private and secure.
The demand for FDWs is driven by various factors, including an increasing number of working parents, aging populations in need of care, and the requirement for affordable domestic services.
Modern lifestyles and work demands necessitate external help. Domestic workers offer respite care to family caregivers, allowing them time off.
Moreover, with the rise of nuclear families, where both partners work, there is an increasing demand for domestic helpers to manage household chores. Addressing the need for domestic workers can be seen as one way to support families in managing domestic responsibilities and maintain work-life balance, especially for women.
According to the study conducted by RIGSS, a majority of approximately 55 percent of the respondents expressed a preference for hiring professional domestic workers. However, about 31 percent of the respondents chose not to employ such help due to concerns about affordability, taking into account their limited disposable income.
In addition, the study investigated the availability and willingness of unemployed youth to work as domestic workers. Around 69 percent of the unemployed youth expressed a willingness to work as domestic workers, with a preference for part-time positions. On the other hand, approximately 39 percent of employers preferred to have live-in domestic workers, considering it a more cost-effective option.
Regarding wages, the study revealed that local domestic workers demanded salaries of Nu 13,040, which is twice the amount that employers could afford to pay. This wage disparity poses a challenge in meeting the expectations of domestic workers and the financial limitations of employers.