The Labor Law also ensures that citizens are equal with respect to the right to work in accordance with Article (3) of the Law. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has launched several initiatives aimed to increase the employment of citizens, protect and promote the right to work, and improve work environment in the private sector to be attractive for young job seekers. The most significant of these initiatives are:
Nitaqat (Categories) Program: It is a practical and effective mechanism for promoting employment of Saudis in the private sector. Private companies are given incentives to attract and recruit Saudis by having their classification under the program upgraded in accordance with their Saudization rate, enabling them to enjoy a fuller range of the facilities and services offered by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development than in a lower category;
"Tawafuq" (compatibility) program for employment of people with special needs:
This program seeks to provide jobs for people with special needs and secure them a suitable working environment, as well as encourage private sector businesses to employ them by offering them relative advantages under the "Nitaqat" program.
* Wages Protection Program: It monitors data on payment of workers' monthly wages and compares it with data recorded by the Government to ensure that wages are paid on time and in full.
Regarding social security, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development requires Saudi workers to be registered with the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) in order to be counted in the Saudization rate under the Nitaqat program and to continue to pay contributions in order to receive social insurance benefits in the private sector and be protected from occupational hazards.
A number of decisions and programs have been adopted to increase job opportunities for Saudi women. Among these is an initiative launched to develop female employment, consisting of four key axes, with each axis made up of a group of programs. The four axes are: direct recruitment, employment mechanism programs, programs addressing the challenges of female employment and support services, and programs to develop and give effect to legislation and regulations on female employment. A number of decisions have been issued, putting in place the regulatory and procedural frameworks to expand female employment and implementation is being monitored. These decisions concern the regulation of female employment in factories and shopping malls and feminization of jobs in shops selling women's items. Other decisions have also been issued, regulating women's employment in retail establishments, kitchens and family leisure centers.
As regards legal protection of migrant workers, the provisions of the Labor Law stress that workers' dignity must be safeguarded, within a healthy working environment. The Law also clarifies the rights and duties of each party to the employment relationship towards one another. Under Article (61) of the Law, the employer must not employ a worker as forced labor or withhold his wages or any part thereof without a court order. The employer shall treat his workers with due respect and refrain from offending their dignity and religion in word or deed. He must give the workers the time required to exercise those rights provided for in this Law without making any corresponding deduction from their wages. He may, however, regulate the exercise of this right so that the workflow is not disturbed. He must facilitate for staff of the competent bodies any task related to the enforcement of the provisions of this Law. Under Article (8) of this Law, any condition, waiver or compromise in respect of a worker's rights shall be null and void unless it is more favourable to the worker. The Law also gave the worker the right to leave his employment without notice to the employer, while retaining his statutory rights in full even if the employer does not agree to his departure. This applies to a number of cases, including where the employer, a member of his family or the manager in charge commits a violent assault against or behaves indecently toward the worker or any member of his family.
A number of ministerial decisions have been issued to give effect to the provisions of the Labor Law on the protection of migrant workers. The most significant of these are:
- Ministerial Decision No. (738/1) dated 16/05/1425H, corresponding to 4/7/2004, banning all forms of trafficking in persons, including selling work visas, receiving payment for hiring a worker, receiving payment for entry visas, exit/re-entry visas, residency permits and work permits, breaching contractual obligations, inhuman and indecent treatment of workers and employing and exploiting children. The decision stipulates that, in addition to the penalties provided for in the relevant laws, a person committing any of the above offences shall be banned from recruiting migrant workers for a period of five years; in the event of a repeat offence or commission of two or more offences, the Minister of Labor shall issue a decision banning the offender from recruiting migrant workers for life;
- Ministerial Decision No. (2370/1) dated 18/09/1431H, corresponding to 28/8/2010, prohibiting discrimination between male and female workers in respect of wages for work of equal value;
- Ministerial Decision No. (1998/A) dated 29/06/1432H, corresponding to 2/6/2011, promulgating the Recruitment Companies Regulations, which contain several articles relating to the protection of migrant workers;
- Ministerial Decision No. (2425) dated 3/06/1434H, corresponding to 14/4/2013, identifying cases of suspension of services to an employer, with resumption dependent on the situation being remedied in a legal manner. The Decision addresses the following cases: failure of a business to comply with the Wages Protection Program, employment of women and juveniles in hazardous jobs or noxious industries and failure of a business to take proper precautions to protect and ensure the safety of workers against work-related hazards and illnesses and when operating equipment;
- Ministerial Decision No. (803) dated 12/02/1434H, corresponding to 26/12/2012, on the Wages Protection Program, which the Ministry of Labor and Social Development started to implement in stages starting from Rajab 1434H, corresponding to June 2013. The Program operates via an electronic mechanism and involves businesses paying wages through local banks and submitting employee wage files to the Ministry. It also monitors the data on workers' monthly payments and compares it with the data recorded with the Ministry to ensure that businesses pay wages on time and in full. The Ministry penalises any business that fails to apply such provisions pursuant to the mechanism set out in the decision;
- Ministerial Decision No. (3337) dated 05/07/1435H, corresponding to 5/5/2014, stipulating that workers may not be made to work in direct sunlight between the hours of 12 pm and 15 pm starting from 15th June to 15th September. Following enforcement of this decision, 3,904 violations were recorded in 2014 and 2,499 in 2015;
- Ministerial Decision No. (4786) dated 28/12/1436H, corresponding to 12/10/2015, which penalises any employer who retains a worker's passport without the latter's consent with a fine of SR 2,000 (equivalent to $ 533), as an administrative punishment.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Development undertakes monitoring the implementation of the laws and decisions which guarantee and protect the rights of migrant workers through a variety of mechanisms, including the following:
A. Workplace Inspection
Specialists conduct field visits to the workplace to determine compliance on the ground with the provisions of the Labor Law and its Implementing Regulations, including those pertaining to working hours, wages, protection against occupational accidents and illnesses, social services, and protection of laborers against injuries during the performance of their jobs. They also ascertain the enforcement of ministerial decisions issued in implementation of the Labor Law. A workplace inspection manual has been prepared to clarify what businesses must do to comply with the Labor Law and raise the level of awareness of businesses and workers. Operations rooms have been established to support labor inspectors and improve the enforcement of the Law.
B. Migrant Workers Welfare Department
This Department has been created to provide care to migrant workers in the area of employment relationships and overcome any obstacles arising out of such relationships so as to remedy the workers' situation. The Department takes strict measures against employers who fail to respond to the problems of their workers, including suspension of services, transfer of a worker's sponsorship at his request without notice to the employer, providing workers with access to means of redress and putting in place a mechanism for receiving complaints. To give effect to Article (212) of the Labor Law, a number of preliminary commissions have been formed to settle labor disputes. Likewise, to give effect to Article (215), a number of circuits of the High Commission for Settlement of Labor Disputes have been established and several new members appointed to widen the scope of labor litigation and make access to it easier and less time-consuming.
The Regulations on Domestic Service Workers and their Equivalents represents a statutory framework governing the relationship between the employer and the domestic worker since it defines the rights and duties of each with respect to the other. These Regulations affirm that an employer must not assign a domestic service worker to a job that has not been agreed on in the contract, is hazardous to health, or violates the worker's dignity.
In implementation of the Regulations, (36) committees have been formed to date by a ministerial decree for each committee in order to settle disputes involving domestic service workers and their equivalents across the various regions and governorates of the Kingdom. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has set up a hotline (19911) to receive complaints in eight languages. The competent agencies take awareness-raising measures on an ongoing basis to promote and protect the rights of workers by distributing booklets in various languages, explaining labor laws and the concepts of trafficking in persons and forced labor. These booklets are also distributed to the Kingdom's embassies and the embassies of relevant countries in the Kingdom. Furthermore, a number of rights organizations conduct media campaigns as part of the program to spread the culture of human rights. In addition, the competent agencies in the Kingdom enter into bilateral agreements with the relevant countries, requiring that male and female workers should take awareness-raising and training courses to familiarize them with their rights and duties.
The Labor Law stresses that a worker's dignity must be safeguarded. Thus, Article (61) of the Law stipulates that an employer must not employ the worker as forced labor or withhold his wages or any part thereof without a court order. The employer must treat his workers with due respect and refrain from offending their dignity and religion in word or deed. He must give his workers the time required to exercise their rights provided for in the Law without making any corresponding deduction from their wages. The Law gives a worker the right to leave his employment without notice to the employer, while retaining his statutory rights in full even if the employer does not agree to his departure. This applies to a number of cases, including where the employer, any of his family members or the manager in charge commits a violent assault against or behaves indecently towards the worker or a member of his family; if the employer or manager in charge bullies the worker or treats him in a cruel or humiliating way; or if the employer or his representative, by his actions, has driven the worker to leave, particularly if these actions involve bullying or treatment that breaches the terms of the contract. The Regulations on Domestic Service Workers and their Equivalents affirm that an employer must not assign a domestic service worker to a job that has not been agreed on in the contract, is hazardous to health or violates the worker's dignity. It is worth noting that everyone has the right of recourse to the judiciary to complain about any violation of his rights.
Your Labor Advisor Service was launched on January 18, 2016; it is an electronic service (free of charge) provided by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development through the Labor Education portal, which aims to reply to specific questions about the provisions of the Labor Law. It is designed to raise the awareness of all categories and sections of Ministry customers of the rights and duties guaranteed by the Saudi Labor Law and create sound working relations between the parties to the production process, helping to absorb workers into the Kingdom's labor environment, facilitate their work and remove the obstacles they might face. The service is manned by a group of legal advisors charged with replying to questions received from customers. The service can be accessed in the following ways:
- Labor offices located across the Kingdom;
- Labor Education website: www.laboreducation.gov.sa;
- Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs account on Twitter: @MOL_CARE;
- Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs call center: tel. 19911.
One result of the Kingdom's efforts to promote and protect workers' rights is the creation of a working environment attractive to workers of all races, religions, nationalities and cultures from all over the world, which contributed to the development of their countries by several methods, principally remittances which, in 2009, amounted to SR 94.4 billion (equivalent to USD 25.1 billion), and continued to rise until they exceeded SR 130 billion (USD 34.6 billion) by 2014.