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Saudi business owners voice concern at new labor rules

Businessmen have voiced their concern regarding couple of new articles of the new labor regulations that were passed by the Ministry of Labor recently.

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Businessmen have voiced their concern regarding couple of new articles of the new labor regulations that were passed by the Ministry of Labor recently.

The sticking point, according to them was particularly those that dealt with vacations, employment of women and allowing expatriates to keep their passports.

The new system they noted is more specific than the previous one and it is in the favor of employees. However, it looks at the businesses narrowly such that they would incur swift penalties if anything happens.

“We need time to adjust and prepare our homes! They should guide us and visit us to explain the system before imposing the fines or other penalties,” said a businessman.

Regarding the employment of women, Wasif Kabli, chairman of Kabli Holding Company, said the new regulations might result in reducing the employment of women in the private sector.

He noted that one specific article stated that a workingwoman should be given four months and ten days along with complete salary if her husband dies. This, said Kabli, is just adding to the costs of companies since each hour counts.

Further, he noted, that demanding different procedures for the employment of women without being specific is another problem.

Such procedures include asking women to wear hijab and work in isolations. However, Kabli said the problem is that such articles are vague and are left in the hand of labor investigation officials, who define the violations, and therefore impose fines based on their own interpretations.

Another issue that businessmen raised is that companies are to be fined SR2,000 if they keep a worker’s passport. The new regulations are in the benefit of employees only, he questioned, “How could we protect our rights if the workers have their passports? This will allow them to leave at anytime without notice, or from under our noses if they are involved in any crimes.”

Further, he added, that many workers live in accommodations where one room might have up to five workers and it is not safe to keep passports with them in this environment.

Khalid Obaid, a human resources manager, at a private company noted that an article that states that employees can have up to 30 days leave without excuse will increase carelessness among employees.

The employment of women in completely isolated areas tends to negatively affect productivity added Obaid. “We are not against the new regulations but we want the Labor Ministry to take into considerations the rights of companies as well.”

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Nov. 2, 2015.