The vital role of the labor inspector
Saudi Arabia is one of the most attractive countries for labor from all over the world, which often places it at the center of international attention regarding the observance of employee rights. In addition to the great attention paid by the government to the labor system and its regulations, the labor inspectorate is one of the main pillars for implementing the plans of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development for regulating the Kingdom’s labor market by ensuring the correct application of regulations and the commitment of both parties to the contractual relationship.
But is the current mechanism appropriate to cope with the latest developments? Today we will talk about the labor inspectorate and its role in ensuring the application of regulations and rules.
The labor inspection body consists of one or several persons known as labor inspectors. But the Saudi regulator has extended the inspection department, stipulating that inspection missions can be carried out by any Saudi citizen, not just employees of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. This means that citizens are authorized to participate in the inspection process by reporting anything they see in any establishment that may be contrary to the regulations. I see this as a positive point that strengthens the role of the national citizen and encourages their involvement in the process of reform, improvement and development.
The tasks of the labor inspectors are to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Labor Law and related decisions and policies; to assist employers and employees in implementing the system by providing them with information and guidance; to inform the competent authorities of deficiencies that affect the implementation of their policies;and to investigate violations of the Labor Law and to propose appropriate fines according to the violations and penalties schedule approved by the ministry. Of course, neutrality, transparency and rigor are the main elements that help inspectors carry out these responsibilities.
The inspectors have many powers, including access to documents and ground-based observations. They can enter any facility at any time of day without prior notice, subject to the provisions of the Labor Law, to conduct any examination or investigation necessary. They may also ask the employer or their representative, or employees, in private or in the presence of witnesses, about any matter related to the implementation of the legal provisions. And they can access all documents and records and obtain any required copies from these papers.
Moreover, the labor inspectors have a very important role in ensuring that the wages paid to employees are not less than the legal minimum, and the principle of equal pay between females and males is being honored. The inspectors also have to make sure that overtime pay is properly registered and that they have access to the records of the employer and their employees. They also have the right to ask for any required information relating to the employment contract.
After listing the tasks of the labor inspectors, it is very important to clarify the prominent role they play in the development of the Saudi labor system. The inspectors contribute to its development by ensuring that the system’s provisions are implemented and suggestions are submitted to make such provisions more flexible and applicable. The monitoring of irregularities contributes to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development’s statistics and data, which increase its ability to evaluate the labor market and its developments.
To conclude, it is worth noting that the system has set discretionary powers for the inspectors to be subject to their own vision and according to the circumstances of each situation. This indicates the flexibility of the system to regulate the Saudi labor market. This flexibility results in a very high ethical responsibility for the inspectors, who must be suitably qualified and continuously subjected to effective evaluation to ensure maximum benefits. This training should aim at applying global legislative standards in the field of employment to the Saudi labor environment.
Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif