Contrary to popular belief, expatriates working in Saudi Arabia are protected by Saudi law and they do have certain rights. This post is meant to throw light on some of those rights and what to do in case any of the expatriates has a problem with his sponsor. Before explaining the rights of expats, I would also like to caution that under no circumstances must expatriates violate the local law. As mentioned earlier (click this link), you have come for money, nothing more, nothing less, so do not break any law if you want protection under the same law.
It is not a bed or roses for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. The majority of the expat population falls under non-supervisory category. Most of them are quite lowly-paid and there are certainly instances where the sponsor plays foul. Most of these cases pertain to non-payment or delayed payment of salaries, asking expats to pay for their residence visas (iqama), their exit/re-entry visas, etc. Coming from poor backgrounds, most of these men simply do not know where or whom to approach when they are in trouble. Sadly, some of them simply abscond and work illegally elsewhere till they are either caught by the police or till they voluntarily surrender themselves for being deported.
During a recent flight home, I saw atleast 50 odd people who were travelling on the same flight as mine, all of whom were deported after serving a brief term in jail. Their crime was working illegally and overstaying in the kingdom. All of them had the same story to tell - non payment of salaries and ill-treatment by their sponsors. Not one of them had a clue of what was to be done, so they took the easy route of absconding and working illegally elsewhere, till they were caught. As their passports were with their original sponsor, they had no documentary proof and all of them were jailed and later deported.
Expatriates working in Saudi Arabia must definitely be aware of the following rights:
- Timely and monthly payment of salaries as agreed upon and signed in the employment contract in the home country (Note: some of the expatriates are paid far less than what was agreed in their home countries and are forced to sign fresh contracts contrary to what was signed in their original ones once they arrive in the kingdom. This is clearly illegal).
- The cost of the residence permit (iqama) issued soon after arrival, the cost of its renewal as well as the cost of renewing exit/re-entry visas as well as final exit visa are all the sponsor's responsibility. No expatriate should be forced to pay in either full or part of any of the above.
- Fully paid vacation (unless otherwise agreed in the contract).
- Free accommodation or equivalent amount as agreed in the contract
- Free transportation from residence to place of work and back, or its equivalent amount as agreed in the contract
- Free health care. Note that health insurance for every expatriate is compulsory and the cost of the same is to be borne by the sponsor.
- Payment of End of Service benefits at the end of the contract
If any expatriate has genuine grievances on any of the above, he should contact what is known as "Expatriate Grievance Cell". This is a facility run by the Ministry of Labor, Government of Saudi Arabia. A letter in Arabic, detailing the nature of grievance and including the full name and address of the sponsor, must be faxed to 012104565. The letter must also have the full details of the complainants, including passport / iqama numbers and contact details.
I would also strongly advise such expatriates to get in touch with their respective embassies with a copy of the above fax. Usually, all embassies have a legal cell who would help them with an Arabic speaking lawyer in a labor court. Remember, all transactions in courts and all government departments are in Arabic, so getting professional help is a must. Also, do not wait for months together before deciding to make a complaint.
I really wish none of our expatriate brothers and sisters ever use the information above. But it helps to be informed.
Hope you found the above post useful.