The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) has taken over responsibility from the Labour Ministry for the licensing of more than 100 recruitment agencies in Bahrain.
According to new rules, all such companies will have to deposit a minimum BD10,000 in a bank account that could be used to deal with problems involving foreign workers.
It aims to safeguard the rights of skilled and semi-skilled expatriates, who are often lured to the country with promises of good jobs and salaries, only to end up working in a different occupation on lower wages.
“The new regulations were published in the official gazette in January and now we are carrying out implementation,” said LMRA chief executive Ausamah Al Absi.
He said the mandatory deposit system was to “protect the rights of everyone”.
Mr Al Absi said the new regulations also state a tripartite contract that has to be agreed between the employer, worker and the recruitment agency.
“This contract will state the right of the workers, size of the family and the house,” he said.
“The problem we see is the employer or family has no contact with the worker until they reach Bahrain and a proper job contract will make things clear to everyone.”
The official said existing job contracts were “non-descriptive and vague” that allowed “personal interpretation”.
The regulations will also help identify recruitment agencies that are not active.
Mr Al Absi said officials had been implementing the new rules, which are being introduced in a “transition phase” up until the end of the year.
Rights activists have welcomed shake-up, saying it will help tackle the problem of unscrupulous recruitment agencies.
“This is a good sign,” said Migrant Workers Protection Society chairwoman Marietta Dias.
“One of our recommendations for many years is to reform and regulate manpower agencies in Bahrain and set up proper guidelines that need to be followed by all parties.
“Every single person arriving in Bahrain should come through a manpower agency that is recognised by the government.
“Even the manpower agency in countries from where they come should also be licensed by the Bahrain government.”
Ms Dias said workers should have job requirements and conditions explained to them in their own languages before they travel to Bahrain.
“What we see is that these workers are desperate for job and do not bother to understand the terms and conditions of their employment,” she said.
“It is important for them to fully understand the job contract before signing it and also ensure they have a copy of this document with them.”
Bahrain is also in the process of drawing up a law for domestic workers to ensure they are only brought here through licensed recruitment agencies.
It has already been approved by parliament and is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly during its new term, starting before the end of the year.