Ignorance is bliss, goes the saying. For expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, ignorance is dangerous. My earlier article (click here) about the importance of work contract evoked a lot of response from readers of this blog. To this day, the biggest hurdle facing expats is lack of information on just about anything concerning them. Information on labor courts is one such thing.
Sadly, contrary to popular belief of those who want to work in Saudi Arabia, this is neither a place of easy tax-free money nor does milk and honey flow in the streets of the kingdom. Life is definitely tough here. Just take a look at the number of cases in the labor courts and it is more than proof enough.
There are two types of labor courts, also known as "commissions". There is a so-called "Preliminary" Commission and a "High" Commission for settling labor disputes in the kingdom. The preliminary commission has jurisdiction only for small-causes, i.e., for labor disputes up to SR10,000. This commission also takes care of issues like termination of contracts. The High Commission, on the other hand, has more powers and deals with labor disputes involving sums above SR10,000. Once can appeal the decisions of the Preliminary commission to the High commission.Both the commissions have legal powers to inspect the premises of any firm and their record books, when a dispute is involved.
Expatriates must be aware of certain important issues before approaching any of these commissions. As per Article 222 (1) of the Saudi Labor law, you must definitely take up your case within 12 months from termination of your contract or from the date of occurrence of the cause of the dispute, otherwise your case will not be entertained. Note that once a judgement has been passed by the High Commission, there is no further appeal. One good provision in the Saudi labor law is that there can be no abstentions by the judges - either you get a judgement in favor or against.
The biggest problem in the system is that it may take literally several months or even years before you get the verdict. This is what pisses of most expats, as no one has the time or money to sustain the legal battle for so long. Unscrupulous sponsors take advantage of this. Which is all the more reason why I keep emphasizing the importance of your written contract. Never ever ever go by verbal assurances. Remember, if it is not in paper, you don't have it!
On another note, this blog has had its 150,000th visitor this morning. What started off on a small scale has grown so fast within just above 2 years. Never did I ever imagine that this blog, which was started based on my own experiences and the need for information, would become so highly popular. If my writings have helped reunite families and to make lives of my fellow-expats easier, then the purpose of this blog has been achieved. To all my readers and fellow expatriate brothers and sisters, with all humility, a big thank you from the bottom of my heart!