JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR | Arab News Staff
Published — Thursday 30 May 2013
Last update 3 June 2013 7:00 pm
The Ministry of Labor yesterday announced its plan to introduce a strategic program to evaluate the performance of firms across the country as part of its ongoing efforts to make them comply with the country’s labor regulations and protect the rights of workers.
“The program, which will be launched early next year, aims at intensifying the ministry’s monitoring system for some 1.2 million firms and raise their awareness of labor regulations,” said Abdullah bin Nasser Abuthnain, deputy minister for inspections.
The ministry has set out 30 criteria for firms to ensure their excellence. They include payment of workers’ wages on time, not asking employees to work more than eight hours or 48 hours a week and payment of gratuity. During Ramadan, Muslim workers should not be asked to work more than six hours daily and 36 hours weekly. In addition, a firm should not hold any wage, or part of it, without a court order.
Other major criteria include the fact that firms should use Arabic as the official language in their statements, files and contracts; prepare an internal work organizing system and get it approved by the ministry; appoint a person to represent the firm’s owner at workplace; and employ Saudis and provide them with suitable working atmosphere.
There are certain criteria related to women workers. Firms should give them special leave as required and should not ask them to do jobs that do not suit their nature, in addition to following the rules of employing women.
“Foreigners should not be employed without obtaining labor permits, nor should they be employed in a profession that is not mentioned in the permit. Firms should not allow its employees to work for others or on their own,” the ministry explained.
It is the duty of the firm to pay all fees for the recruitment of workers as well as fees for issuing residency permits and work permits and for their renewal and related fines, the fee of changing profession, exit/re-entry visas and for the ticket for a worker to return to home country after the end of contract.
“The firm should also try to replace its foreign workers by Saudis gradually by providing them with necessary training,” the ministry said. Firms having 50 or more workers should train at least six percent of Saudi workers.
Firms having 25 or more workers should employ people of special needs (at least four percent), and injured workers should be given suitable jobs in the institution and this should not deny them the right to get compensation for the injury. The calculation for overtime payment will be at the rate of not less than 150 percent of the basic wage.
The firms have to fill an evaluation form that has been prepared on the basis of certain criteria to know how far they comply with labor rules and the ministry’s decisions. The program will assist the ministry’s inspections.
The ministry held a workshop on the program at Marriott Hotel in Riyadh on Tuesday in the presence of representatives from the Council of Saudi Chambers, the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry and 70 private firms as well as business executives.
“This program will be applied on firms electronically through the ministry’s website,” said Abuthnain. “It will not nullify the role of inspectors but help them,” he said during the workshop. “We are planning to announce certain incentives for firms that follow the criteria set by the ministry for their excellent performance,” he said.