Friday, November 21, 2014

Rights? What's that?

The announcement by the Ministry of Labor on the conditions which an employer may fire an employee and those on which an employee working in Saudi Arabia may quit an employer, has created more questions than answers.

The Ministry has announced in its website eight different scenarios. Most of them are nothing new and are already mentioned in the revised labor law which came into effect in 2006 (which badly needs revision again, but that's another story). What makes it different is the way in which it has been reiterated.

To begin with, an employer can simply terminate his employee without notice if an employee assaults his employer or his family members, did not follow orders, did not meet the contractual obligations, if he endangers the safety of others, for breaching codes of conduct, if he causes material losses, if he produces false educational certificates, absent for non-legitimate reasons for 20 days in a one-year period or 10 consecutive days without genuine reason, or if the employee reveals company secrets or uses his position for personal gain.

The employee can also quit without notice (at least that is what the Ministry of Labor wants us to believe) if his sponsor fails to fulfill financial obligations, changes contract clauses without consent, if the sponsor assaults or behaves in an unethical manner or if he is asked to work in unsafe conditions.

One look at the above would reveal how one-sided the rule is. MoL says that an employee can simply leave without notice if his sponsor does not fulfill his financial obligations. The stark reality is that most expats working in Saudi Arabia, particularly at the lowest levels, are paid salaries much lower than what they were promised back home. Expats are asked to sign a contract in Arabic after landing in the kingdom and this alone is considered as a legal document in a court. What rights do you expect for an expat worker who is illiterate and who is literally forced to sign a document which he cannot even read as soon as he arrives?

Now let's assume that an expat takes the above rule by MoL seriously and want to quit his employer without notice because he was not paid his salary for months together. Seriously, do you think he can get out of the kingdom? Remember, the passport is still with the sponsor, so the slaves dare not even think about such a thing. And if someone does muster enough courage to report, all that the sponsor needs to do is to file a counter-report that the employee has "insulted" him and has therefore breached a code of conduct. It is curtains then for the employee. And for those who haven't read between the lines, his End of Service benefits could be withheld because of dismissal from service on disciplinary grounds. And this is legally permitted.

And it is not just for blue-collared workers, as you might think. The rule is as porous as a sieve for white collared ones too. Let's say an employee goes on vacation and is unable to return immediately due to an emergency. If he extends his leave by 3 weeks, he faces the risk of dismissal. All that his sponsor needs to do is file a report with MoL that the reason was not genuine and that's it! The employee would not even have a chance to present his case as he is anyway out of the kingdom.

In short, whatever be the category of the employee, whether working in an office, factory or outdoors, the sponsor has the final say. So what's new in this, as people knew this for ages? Well, it is just that MoL has made it official by publishing this in its website. After all, everyone needs a fig leaf isn't it?  :D 

Rights? What are you talking about?

I would like to conclude on a happier note that your blog has crossed 1.4 million readers. Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart :) 


Ezy Cristobal said...

Dear Expatguru,

While searching for more info about working in Saudi Arabia, i came across your site, and honestly I sincerely do admire all your information and ideas which has been freely shared to us. I am now in Brunei Darussalam and had been offered a job in Saudi and it was such a good offer. I might email you personally for some inquiries.

Again thank you!


Expatguru said...


Thanks for your sentiments.

In case you need to ask a query, please fill it in in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized and confidential reply by email.

Michael Fletcher said...

Great work, Expatguru. You hit the nail on the head.

Carlos Morais said...

Great work. Keep it coming ;-)

mapal said...

Dear Sir ,
I have been working in a company for the past 8 months .I have come on companys visa .
Due to unforseen circumstances , i have to make a final exit to go back to my country . My family is in urgent needs of my presence.
I havent signed any contract with the current company , i am willing to serve one month notice and go for a final exit . But my employer states that i will not get a final exit for 2 years . He says its a 2 year contract assumed .

Kindly let me know my options as i have heard visiting Labour court may take months to settle the case .