Saudi Arabia labour reforms offer more expat rights

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Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development today embarked on an ambitious initiative reforming the kingdom’s labour laws to allow expatriate workers additional rights in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP).

At a press conference held in capital Riyadh, the ministry announced the “Labor Relation Initiative,” which will come into effect in March of 2021. The initiative allows expatriate workers labour mobility and amends existing exit procedures in a manner that does not conflict with Saudi Labor Law and is in line with international immigration best practices, said a statement.

The reforms will drive greater competition in Saudi Arabia’s labour market by permitting employees to change their employers and allow employers to attract the best talent, ultimately increasing competition, wages, and public spending inside the kingdom, it said.

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‘The Labor Relation Initiative’ is a declaration of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to developing the local labour market and better regulating it in a manner that is beneficial to both employers and expatriate workers.

The initiative supports the kingdom’s reputation regarding expatriate workers’ rights and its labor market efficiency and would lead to a reduction in the disputes between local employers and expatriate workers relating to employee mobility or exit visa requests.

The reforms allow expatriate workers in the kingdom to transfer their sponsorship from one employer to another, request Exit/Re-Entry Visas, and secure a Final Exit Visa; all will now be approved automatically without requiring the employer’s consent. The three services will be made available to the public through the smartphone application “Absher” and the ministry’s electronic web portal.

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The ‘Labor Relation Initiative’ comes to complement several similar initiatives launched by the kingdom to improve the efficiency of the local job market, including the Wage Protection System (WPS), the electronic documentation of all labour contracts, and launching “Widy” mechanism for out of court settlement of labor disputes.

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