New rules take effect to curb abuse in the workplace
The Kingdom is enjoying an energetic economic renaissance that has significantly affected the job market, and its diversification.
A conducive work environment is one of the most important catalysts for the productivity and development of any enterprise. To regulate workplace environments and establish a mechanism for acceptable interaction among employees, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development has launched new controls to protect against behavioral abuses, which come into effect on Sunday.
The controls are aimed at preventing all forms of exploitation, threats, harassment, extortion, seduction, quarreling, cursing, insults, and any conduct or behavior that are offensive to morality and ethics. They apply to any form of physical or verbal discrimination, whether on the grounds of sex, race, or otherwise, that is likely to cause physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm to someone else. It is important to note that the new regulations cover any behavioral infringement between employees in the course of work, whether during or outside official working hours.
The regulations are based mainly on the existing Labor Law and its executive regulations, implementing the Cabinet’s decision to combat the crime of harassment. They also take into account some international conventions and best practice on the elimination of violence and harassment from the workplace. In addition, the initial draft was revised after a series of workshops with specialists from private-sector entities to obtain their professional opinions and comments.
The regulations also define measures that must be taken by employers to protect their staff from behavioral abuse. The most important of these is the formation of a committee to investigate complaints of abuse in the workplace; failure to establish such a committee may incur a fine of SR15,000 ($4,000). A company that fails to investigate an allegation of abuse within five working days of receiving the complaint, or fails to recommend disciplinary penalties for anyone found culpable, may be fined SR25,000 for each case. The same fine applies if the establishment fails to impose disciplinary penalties within 30 days of a recommendation to do so by the investigative committee.
Penalties for an employee found to have breached the regulations range from a written warning to dismissal, especially in the case of harassment.
The implementation of the new regulations aims to improve and develop the work environment, to make it attractive and safe for jobseekers, and to preserve the rights of all employees.
For the new regulations to be effective in empowering staff, however, it is essential that every employee not only understands their rights under the law, but also respects the responsibilities and duties that it requires of them.
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.