Sunday, November 23, 2008

End of Service Benefits

The best thing for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, apart from a tax-free salary, is the provision of End of Service Benefits (ESB) in the Saudi Labor Law :) I have been getting frequent requests for clarifications on this, and hence decided to write an exclusive post on the same.

Nothing more can cause a bigger worry for an expatriate who has decided to leave for good, than the thought of financial insecurity, atleast in the short run. Unless people have a job ready for them as soon as they leave the kingdom, the prospect of being unemployed is truly frightening, particularly in this age of global recession. For those expatriates who have worked in Saudi Arabia for quite a long time, the biggest question before them is: What Next? End of Service Benefits offers some kind of comfort to expatriates, once they have completed their term in the kingdom.

Article 84 of the Labor Law has explicitly stated the benefits to be paid for the expatriates. It is proportional to the number of years he or she has stayed with a particular sponsor. So, for the first five years of service, an expatriate is entitled to receive half a month's pay for each year of service, and one month's pay for each subsequent year of service. Note that this is in case of completion of the contract by the expatriate. Calculation of ESB is based on the last wage a person has earned and includes all allowances. However, these allowances do not include wage components such as sales commissions, sales percentages, etc., because they cannot be accurately determined :-B

There are certain exceptions, though. If an expatriate has resigned within the first two years of service, he is not entitled to any ESB. If he has resigned between two to five years of continuous service, he is entitled to one third of the salary. If he has resigned between five years upto ten years of continuous service, he is entitled to two thirds of the salary and to a full salary, beyond 10 years of continuous service. Again, the definition of "salary" here includes basic pay plus all the allowances, excluding of course, certain exceptions such as sales commissions, etc., as mentioned earlier. In all cases, the last salary drawn is the basis for calculations.

In case the expatriate has to leave due to Force Majeure conditions, he is entitled to a full salary. Force Majeure has been well-defined and in short, it relates to uncontrollable situations such as War, Earthquake, etc.

In case of female workers, Article 87 of the labor law has given some additional benefits. If a female worker leaves the job within six months after her marriage or within three months after she gives birth to a child, she is entitled for full salary benefits.
Hope you found the above information useful. Ignorance isn't bliss, sometimes it could be dangerous not to know your entitlements :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Child birth in Saudi Arabia-2

Those of you who have missed the earlier post on this topic can click here to read the same.
Life is not easy for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. The paper work starts the moment a child is born! Fortunately, the vaccination for the child is not part of the paperwork, unlike for children born in your home country and brought into the kingdom. The All-Important document is, of course, the child's birth certificate. To be precise, there are two versions of birth certificates - one in Arabic for local use, and one in English which is going to be with you lifelong even in your home country.
Now for the brass-tacks. It is the responsibility of every hospital in Saudi Arabia to issue a document called "Birth notification". This is issued either immediately after birth of the baby or definitely before the mother is discharged from the hospital. The first thing to be done is get the original passports of both the father and the mother translated into Arabic. I would strongly advise you to take the services of a professional agent for this. They know their job and will do quite a good one out of this. To this translation, you have to attach the photocopies of your original passports , your iqama and of course, the birth notification issued by the hospital.
Next, you will have to go to the Ministry of Interior in your town or the office of MOI nearest to your town and get the relevant birth certificate application form from their office. Everything will be in Arabic in this form, so it will be best to bring the blank form from the Ministry and give it to the agent who did your translation. Usually these agents do have a photocopy of this form, this is just in case your agent does not have one of these. Get the form filled in properly and attach photographs where required.
This whole set must be submitted to the Ministry of Interior. Again, get the agent to do this work for you. Believe me, it would save you a lot of trouble rather going and trying to do it yourself.
In a few days, you would have got a birth certificate issued by the Ministry. Everything would be in Arabic in this certificate. Note that this certificate is of no use in your home country, so the paper work hasn't finished yet!
You will have to get this re-translated back into English. Again, the agent is your savior! Next, take a digital photograph of your baby while he or she is awake. The reason why I insist on a digital photo is that when you give it to a studio, they will accordingly change the background, size, etc., of the baby's photograph and will give it to you in a format required by your embassy.
Now, you will have to attach your original passport of the mother, photocopy of your iqama, photocopy of the Arabic birth certificate along with photographs of the baby. Fill in the relevant form of your country's embassy and give the whole set to your agent. You should be getting a new passport for your baby plus a document having a fancy name called "Certificate of Entry of Birth" by your embassy. This is nothing but the birth certificate issued by your embassy which you will have to retain throughout your life!

That's it for now. Hope you found the post interesting and useful.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

NOC required again for Indians?

I have received a couple of emails this morning (8th November, 2008) from my friends that the Saudi consulate in Mumbai has now changed their rules regarding NOC. The emails say that the requirement of No Objection Certificate for those wanting to change jobs in Saudi Arabia, is being re-introduced.
I am unable to immediately either confirm or deny this, as I have to verify the genuineness in these emails. Both the emails are only 'forwarded' ones, and it is quite difficult to predict at this stage whether the news is only a rumour or whether it is genuine.
I have with me an official document which says that NOC was no longer required for Indians, which was what prompted me to write an earlier article (Click here to read the same). Just as expatriates were breathing a bit easy, it appears that things don't change so fast.
I am now in the process of verifying whether the draconian rule is really being re-introduced. As a matter of abundant precaution and safety, I would advise all my readers who are planning to return to the kingdom for employment, to take an NOC from the current employer. Once I get some confirmed and reliable information, I would immediately post the same here.
I have just received an email from a leading recruitment agent in India, Jerry Varghese, who has confirmed that the Saudi Consulate in Mumbai has once again withdrawn its recent change in the NOC rule. So, No Objection Certificate is no longer required for Indian citizens who have left the kingdom on an exit visa and who wish to reenter the kingdom for employment. For those who have left on exit/reentry visa, they have to wait for one year before they can return for employment. Obviously, it appears that pressure from employers in the kingdom, who are already reeling under a severe manpower crunch, has worked. For the moment, let's celebrate!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Child birth in Saudi Arabia - 1

My earlier post on death case formalities (click here to read it) evoked such a huge emotional response from the expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, that the logical corollary is a post on - what else - child birth formalities in the kingdom :) Your favorite blog now has the distinction of covering all topics from birth until death!! The subject is quite extensive, so I decided to write it in two or more parts. This is the first part of the series and depending upon your support, I may continue to write more on the subject or just stop.

The first and foremost thing to remember if you are planning to have your child's delivery in Saudi Arabia, is that you must definitely have an insurance. Medical care in the kingdom is extremely expensive and without an insurance, you are really doomed. But before this, you must ask yourself a fundamental question:Do you really want to have the delivery in Saudi or not :-B

Ansering this question is quite difficult and you must most certainly consider all the pros and cons before making this all-important decision. Most bigger cities in Saudi Arabia have hospitals with good facilities. Most of the medicines are imported and all of them carry a mandatory pamphlet mentioning the dosage, indications, contra indications, precautions and side effects. All the medicines in the kingdom are strictly monitored by the Ministry of Health. Some of the best equipments which money can buy, are available in the hospitals. Hospitals are quite clean and patient care by the nurses is also good.

Now for the downside. Until a few years back, delivery for expatriate mothers was free of cost in Government hospitals. However, the rule has changed in recent years with health insurance becoming mandatory. Do note, however, that there are several insurance companies operating in the kingdom. The coverage of each company depends completely on the premium paid by the sponsor. As an example, treatment and child birth in a five-star hospital like Saad hospital in Al Khobar, is not covered by most of the standard insurance companies. Hence, you must be absolutely sure whether maternity treatment is covered by your insurance policy or not.

Next, the sensitive issue about the quality of doctors. Opinion is divided on this. There are excellent doctors, good doctors and not-so-good ones in all the hospitals. It goes without saying that a good gynaecologist is paramount to having a safe delivery. After all, nothing is more important to an individual than personal health and safety. I have seen some really excellent doctors in a few hospitals. I have also seen some doctors who are just terrible! To give a fair assessment, it is impossible to generalize all the doctors or hospitals as either good or bad. The best way is to ask fellow expatriates their experiences about a particular hospital or doctor and then take a decision accordingly.

Child birth and maternity care in Saudi Arabia does not simply stop at the hospital. It has to continue beyond delivery. I have seen fellow-expatriates looking desparately for some domestic help for their wives for a few months after delivery.Of particular concern are those mothers who have undergone caesarian surgeries. Most companies in the kingdom give only upto 3 days leave for the husbands to take care of their wives. If there is no one else to take care of the wife and the new-born, the couple are really in for some trouble. Usually, expatriate husbands prefer to bring their mothers-in-law for assisting their respective wives, but it is not always practically possible to do so. Domestic nurses are in extremely high demand and being a rarity, they charge quite heavily when available.

So how does one decide whether to have the delivery in the kingdom or not? Again, it is quite a difficult decision and has to be made after analyzing the various options, pros and cons, and is purely a personal decision. My own opinion on this is that, if possible try to have the delivery in your own home country. This would save a lot of trouble for both the husband as well as the wife, particularly after the delivery. After all, no place is as good as home! Of course, deliveries for expatriate mothers do happen in the kingdom. There are quite some formalities and paperwork dealing with child birth for expatriates in Saudi Arabia 8- More on this in future posts.

Do let me know your opinion and comments.