I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we hired Ms. M, our amazing Filipina housemaid. She has been wonderful for our family and we really appreciate her. It’s only been 1 week since she left for her 1-month vacation and already the house is in shambles. (Oh god, I hope she doesn’t read my blog. She may change her mind about coming back!).
Here’s what you need to know about planning an annual vacation for maids (or at least what our experience was like). Let me warn you, there are a lot of abbreviations in this post. I hope it’s not confusing to you, because it definitely took me a while to understand it.
As the sponsor of a maid, expats are obligated to cover the cost of the annual flight home to her home country (if she chooses to take a vacation). If your maid is from the Philippines she likely has to take both an international flight from Dubai to the Philippines AND a domestic flight from Manila to her home town airport.
There are about a dozen different airlines that fly from Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Sharjah to Manila, but most include layovers in Bangkok, Doha, Hong Kong or Singapore.
There are also a few direct flights:
- Dubai to Manila – Emirates and Cebu Pacific (starting in October 2013)
(Update: Cebu Pacific now flies daily between Dubai and Manila)
- Abu Dhabi to Manila – Etihad Airways
Most people choose to send their maids home on the cheapest flight (which usually means a long trip with connecting flights). I don’t blame them with the cost of flights these days. But if you plan it right, you might get lucky like we did. We not only got Ms. M on the cheapest flight, but it was also direct on Emirates!
Ms. M was ecstatic to hear she didn’t have to layover in Hong Kong, which she said was very intimidating because it’s a huge airport.
[Edit: When Ms. M came back she told me she had been upgraded to business class on the flight to Manila! She said she was so surprised and excited to have that luxurious experience. How lucky is that!]
If your maid comes from one of the outer islands of the Philippines, like Ms. M, then she’ll also travel on a domestic flight from Manila to another regional airport. I don’t know if technically sponsors are required to pay for this portion of the flight. To be honest, I think our responsibilities end at getting her to Manila and I’m sure many expats would agree. (But I would love to hear your opinion — leave me a comment below!)
However we felt more comfortable paying for the regional flight from Manila to Bacolod. She ended up taking Cebu Pacific. The price of the ticket was almost exactly the amount we saved by sending her on Emirates instead of Cathay Pacific. So it all worked out in the end.
Ms. M happens to live in a beautiful beachfront area, but it’s very far away from the city. After she arrives in Bacolod, she has to travel by bus for 8-10 hours to her house. What an exhausting trip!
In Dubai, expats that sponsor a maid have to sign a standard contract that outlines the responsibilities of both the sponsor and the maid. This includes an annual paid vacation for maids. At the end of the contract, she (the maid) can choose to either take the 1-month paid holiday OR take cash in lieu of a vacation. A lot of housemaids in Dubai choose to stay and work so they can collect the cash in lieu. Here’s how it works:
- Maid goes back to her home country for 1 month
- She is given 1 month salary for the time she’s gone
- Her flights are paid for by you
Cash in lieu
- Maid stays in Dubai and continues working for sponsor as usual
- She is given 1 month salary as her holiday pay
- You ALSO give her cash for what you would have paid for the flights*
- You pay her normal monthly salary plus the holiday pay
* How much you give her for the cost of the flights really depends on you. Some people think it’s fair to either find the average cost of flights or choose a flight she would have gone on. I know some people have said they would pay according to the absolute cheapest flight possible. There is no law that covers this, so it’s based on the individual.
By the way,if you or your husband are Emirati (ie have a 2-year maid contract), then I don’t think the above applies.
Required Paperwork & Fees
There is some administrative shuffling that your maid will need to do before she goes on vacation. She can take care of it herself, you (as her sponsor) don’t need to go with her.
It’s all done at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) office in Dubai and it is very busy there. Make sure she goes early in the morning…really early. Ms. M went at 8am and there were already 20 people lined up. She got her papers immediately once she got through the queue, submited the paperwork and paid the fees.
Here’s a list of things your maid will need in order to exit the UAE and return from the Philippines:
1. Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC)
The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEC) issues travel exit clearance papers (aka OEC) to all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). The OEC is the holy grail of paperwork for Filipino expats that are traveling. They must show the OEC in order to leave the Philippines without hassle and to avoid paying the travel tax and airport terminal fee (what the heck are those 2 things, does anyone know?)
The OEC is only valid for 2 months, so it’s best to apply for it closer to her travel date. If it expires while she is in the Philippines, she’ll have to apply for a new OEC while she is there. It might be a hassle (and will cost more) this way.
In order to get the OEC she’ll need to take the following documents to the POLO office:
- OEC form
- Original labour contract (plus 2 copies)
- Her original passport (plus 2 copies)
- 2 copies of the sponsor’s passport
- 2 copies of her residence visa
- 2 copies of the sponsor’s residence visa (for expat sponsors only)
- Sponsor information sheet*
- Affidavit from sponsor
Cost: 10 dhs
* Look closely and you’ll see this form is partially filled out. Before you print it, make sure you remove the person’s name at the top. I didn’t do this, it’s direct from the POLO office.
2. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
As I understand it, this is a government welfare scheme. She doesn’t necessarily need this to travel but she has to pay for it as an OFW. She needs to have OWWA paid in order to get an OEC travel paper. This is valid for 2 years. Cost: 92 dhs
This is another government scheme that helps Filipinos save money to build or buy a house back home. Cost: 10 dhs
It’s always good to get information “straight from the horses mouth.” Please read more about the process for OFWs going on vacation from Filipino expats living in the UAE:
- Samahang Pinoy Kawanggawa – OEC Processing for Vacationing OFWs from UAE
- OFW si Juan – New POLO-OWWA Location in Dubai
- Gremliness – POLO Dubai remind about OECs
- Buhay Disyerto – OEC Requirements for Vacationing OFWs
- OFW corner in UAE – Guidelines on departure formalities for OFWs
The last blog post has interesting information for OFWs that are traveling on holiday but NOT going back home to Philippines.