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Morocco passes 'ground-breaking' law on domestic worker rights

Human Rights Watch welcomes move to set minimum wage, maximum hours and fines for those who break the law
A woman wearing a head scarf walks through the souk (market) in Marrakech (AFP)

Moroccan authorities have passed a new law that will improve employment conditions for domestic workers in the North African country, according to Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based watchdog reported on Monday that a law passed by the country’s House of Representatives on 26 July aids the protection of thousands of women and girls from “exploitation and abuse”.

The law will be implemented one year after its publication in the official gazette, which means it should be operational by July next year.

When it is put into action the new legislation will require domestic workers be given written contracts and a minimum age for domestic workers will be set at 18-years-old.

Adults will only be permitted to work a maximum of 48 hours a week and workers will be granted 24 hours of continuous rest every seven days.

A minimum wage will be set at 1542 dirhams ($158) per month. Employers who break the new law will face fines.

Human Rights Watch said the new law is “groundbreaking” after the group previously reported widespread abuse of workers as young as eight being physically beaten and working long hours for little pay.

“This new law is groundbreaking for domestic workers in Morocco, so many of whom have been exploited and abused,” said Ahmed Benchemsi, Middle East and North Africa communications and advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“But wage and working hour provisions still fall short, especially the new minimum wage for domestic workers, which is much lower than the legal minimum wage for other workers.”

Previous investigations by Human Rights Watch revealed that child Moroccan labourers were being beaten with belts, wooden sticks, shoes, or plastic pipes.

Some of those workers facing abuse were revealed by the 2012 investigation as working over 100 hours each week and being paid as little as 545 dirhams ($61) a month.

“Domestic workers, who are most often poorly educated women and girls from the countryside, work in urban environments where they are isolated,” said Benchemsi.

“By providing domestic workers with legal, enforceable protection, Morocco is delivering the message that even the most vulnerable workers deserve humane conditions.”

Human Rights Watch said if the new law is to prove effective then a public awareness campaign should be launched so workers are aware of their new rights.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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