e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage, per month, which is above the individual poverty line. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. A January increase in the minimum wage excluded migrant workers.
The law sets a workweek of 48 hours and requires overtime pay for hours worked in excess of that level. Because there was no limit on mutually agreed overtime, the Ministry of Labor reportedly permitted employees in some industries, such as the garment sector, to work as many as 70 to 75 hours per week, and observers reported many foreign workers requested overtime work. NGOs reported some instances of forced overtime. As part of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic response, the government announced policies for remote work, reduced wages, and suspension of operations for private-sector companies. The policies included permission for employers to reduce workers’ salaries up to 50 percent in cases where employees could not report to work. As of August the Ministry of Labor received 13,651 employee complaints regarding policies designed to ease the impact of government public health measures on employers.
Employees are entitled to one day off per week. The law provides for 14 days of paid sick leave and 14 days of paid annual leave per year, increasing to 21 days of paid annual leave after five years of service with the same firm. Workers also received additional national and religious holidays designated by the government. The law permits compulsory overtime under certain circumstances, such as conducting an annual inventory, closing accounts, preparing to sell goods at discounted prices, avoiding loss of goods that would otherwise be exposed to damage, and receiving special deliveries. In such cases actual working hours may not exceed 10 hours per day, the employee must be paid overtime, and the period may not last more than 30 days.
Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the main industries in the country, and employers were required to abide by all occupational health and safety standards set by the government. However, enforcement was inconsistent. The law requires employers to protect workers from hazards caused by the nature of the job or its tools, provide any necessary protective equipment, train workers on hazards and prevention measures, provide first aid as needed, and protect employees from explosions or fires by storing flammable materials appropriately. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with the Ministry of Labor’s occupational safety and health experts and not the worker. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment.
The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and acceptable conditions of work. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. Labor inspectors did not regularly investigate reports of labor abuses or other abuses of domestic workers in private homes, and inspectors cannot enter a private residence without the owner’s permission except with a court order. Employees may lodge complaints regarding violations of the law directly with the Ministry of Labor or through organizations such as their union or the NCHR. The NCHR reported receiving 12 complaints related to labor disputes through November. The ministry opened an investigation for each complaint.
Wage, overtime, safety, and other standards often were not upheld. Some foreign workers faced hazardous and exploitative working conditions in a variety of sectors. Authorities did not effectively protect all employees who attempted to remove themselves from situations that endangered their health and safety. Labor organizations reported that female citizen workers were more likely than men to encounter labor abuses, including wages below the minimum wage and harassment in the workplace.
The government requires garment-exporting manufacturers to participate in the Better Work Jordan (BWJ) program, a global initiative by the ILO and the International Finance Corporation to improve labor standards. All factories required by the government to join BWJ were active members of the program. BWJ expanded its program during the year to include export factories in the plastics, chemicals, and industrial engineering sectors.
In the garment sector, foreign workers were more susceptible than citizens to dangerous or unfair conditions. BWJ stated that reports of coercion decreased during the year. Indebtedness of foreign garment workers to third parties and involuntary or excessive overtime persisted. While the law sets the minimum wage, a substantial portion of the standard monthly minimum wage for foreign workers in the garment industry was used to pay employment placement agencies for food, accommodation, and travel for workers from their home countries, according to an international NGO. In January BWJ launched a two-year initiative to improve the mental health of factory workers in the garment sector, a matter NGOs had raised during 2019 collective bargaining agreement discussions, by training medical providers and Ministry of Health staff who treat factory workers.
Informal Sector: The Ministry of Labor did not consistently inspect and monitor all workplaces or apply all the protections of the labor code for vulnerable workers such as domestic and agricultural workers. Authorities were hampered by barriers to the inspection of homes where domestic workers lived. Labor organizations stated that many freelancing agricultural workers, domestic workers, cooks, and gardeners, most of whom were foreign workers, were not enrolled for social benefits from the Social Security Corporation because only salaried employees were automatically enrolled, and optional enrollment was limited to citizens. Domestic workers face discrimination by nationality in their wages. Although the law was amended in 2008 to extend certain rights to domestic and agricultural workers, the law required that each group be covered by its own legislation.
In June 2020 the Ministry of Labor shut down two textile factories in the town of Karak following complaints of poor working conditions and maltreatment of employees; as of September the two factories remained closed pending court rulings. The 1,500 Jordanian employees of these factories were being paid via a social security program to ease the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector, while 230 Burmese workers were waiting to be deported or relocated to other factories.
On March 14, the government approved a new law to regulate the agricultural sector, preserve workers’ rights, protect against discrimination, and provide workers with coverage under the Social Security Law. For the first time, the law also gives agricultural workers the right to file lawsuits and submit complaints to labor inspectors, have access to the courts, and be exempt from work- or residency-permit fees. Local NGOs said the bylaw fell short of expectations, particularly because it did not address work permits for migrant workers, who make up most of the sector’s workforce. Other NGOs criticized the absence of provisions on maternity leave, childcare, and equal health insurance for female workers in the informal sector. The law does not require farms with three or fewer workers to enroll employees in social security.
Employers reportedly subjected some workers in the agricultural sector, the majority of whom are Egyptians, to exploitative conditions. According to a domestic NGO, agricultural workers usually received less than the minimum wage. Some employers in the agricultural sector confiscated passports. Egyptian migrant workers were also vulnerable to exploitation in the construction industry, where employers usually paid migrant workers less than the minimum wage and failed to uphold occupational health and safety standards.
Domestic workers often faced unacceptable working conditions, working long hours without holidays or days off during the week and not being paid on time. NGOs report employers regularly confiscate passports and other documents. While domestic workers could file complaints in person with the Ministry of Labor’s Domestic Workers Directorate or the PSD, many domestic workers complained there was no follow-up on their cases. The CTU operates a 24-hour hotline, with limited translation capabilities. From January through August, the Ministry of Labor referred 29 cases to the CTU; 104 workers were placed in shelters.
Advocates reported that migrant domestic workers who sought government assistance or made allegations against their employers frequently faced counterclaims of criminal behavior from the employers. Employers could file criminal complaints or flight notifications with police stations against domestic workers. Authorities waived immigration overstay fines for workers deported for criminal allegations or expired work permits. Most fleeing domestic workers reportedly sought to escape conditions indicative of forced labor or abuse, including unpaid wages and, to a lesser extent, sexual or physical abuse. By law employers are responsible for renewing foreign employees’ residency and work permits but often failed to do so for domestic employees. NGOs reported authorities administratively detained domestic workers and other migrant workers and did not inform them of their rights or the reasons for their detention. Legal processes for migrant workers take years and translation services are minimal.
Migrant workers were disproportionately affected by the government’s COVID-19 response. Factory workers contracted the virus at higher rates due to poor health and safety standards and overcrowding, particularly those working in factories in Dalil and Aqaba. Migrant workers are excluded from government programs to offset the effects of the pandemic. Migrant workers are also vulnerable to hate speech and negative stereotypes in print, broadcast, and social media. As of September, the Hemaya online platform the government launched in 2020 to assist foreign workers with their pandemic-related difficulties had received 85,000 complaints on delayed wages and job terminations. Medium and small factories were especially affected by the pandemic; some could not meet commitments to staff, and some cancelled contracts and closed worker dormitories. The government continued its cooperation with foreign embassies to waive overstay fees for migrant domestic workers who wished to repatriate after a two-year stay in the country, a policy that greatly reduced the number of domestic workers stranded at their embassies’ shelters.
In May the Ministry of Labor began to address dormitory conditions of migrant workers in response to complaints. Officials conducted inspections, reported unlicensed dormitories to the Ministry of Justice, and coordinated with BWJ to renovate dormitories.
The informal labor market continues to be the primary sector of employment for refugees. Syrian refugees are mostly employed in the informal sector due to the limited number of “fee-free” work permits available, high annual cost of work permits for work in areas not covered in the fee-free scheme, and limited sectors in which refugees are permitted to work.