New Saudi regulations for a better work environment

New Saudi regulations for a better work environment

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Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development recently issued directives to ensure a healthy work environment in the private sector.

Its directives aim to enforce regulations that protect employee rights and promote healthy management practices in the private sector for the overall welfare of employers and employees.

These new rules not only apply to companies but also to shops. A shop is legally defined as a place designated for a licensed activity of selling and displaying one or more commodities or offering one or more services. It could be located in a mall or in a market.

The ministry has also introduced new rules to effectively combat all kinds of discrimination. An employer is prohibited from discriminating against workers and all employees should be treated equally when it comes to the terms and conditions of work. 

No discrimination should be meted out to anybody during the hiring process or even when making announcements about vacancies on hiring platforms. Any discrimination based on gender, age, or physical ability is prohibited.

The new rules also cover another important aspect - discrimination or disparity in wages on the basis of gender. The disparity in the wages of male and female workers who perform the same tasks at the same level shall not be tolerated.

In my opinion, it is yet another milestone for women in the Kingdom. We all know that women face discrimination in the private sector and the ministry has taken steps to ensure gender equality at workplaces in the private sector. This measure will have a huge impact on the performance of women in the long run.

The ministry also prohibits an employer from taking measures that hinder the enforcement of laws regarding equal opportunities and treatment at work. This also includes a worker’s freedom to dress appropriately at work without violating an establishment’s policies and in accordance with the general laws of the Kingdom.

No employee can force a worker to handle tasks that were not agreed upon in the employment contract. We read reports about companies forcing a worker to take on the responsibilities of a departed colleague without realizing the different nature of the two jobs. The new rules will help curb this wrongful practice.

The workplace dress code is also an important matter. The new regulations require an employer to set a specific dress code for employees, but it should not in any way contradict the provisions of Islamic Shariah. A uniform or a dress code should be a means to ensure a decent professional appearance and be commensurate with a worker’s task.

Employees should be made fully aware of these regulations.

Another important point covered in the new regulations is ensuring a special section for men and women with all facilities including a rest area and prayer space among others.

• 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

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