JEDDAH — The landmark Labor Reform Initiative (LRI) that came into force on Sunday gives a major fillip to improving considerably the contractual relations between employers and employees in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to the initiative, reentry and exit visas and final exit visas will be activated in 10 days after the employee submits a request for it.
There are several features that benefit the parties involved in the employment market in the Kingdom as stipulated in the user guide for the Improvement of the Contractual Relationship Initiative released by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
The guide stipulates that the employer will have a period of 10 days to inquire about the exit and reentry visa application submitted by his worker. If the employer does not respond within the time limit, the worker will be able to issue a single visa for a period of 30 days within five days since the expiry of this deadline.
However, the worker will not be able to issue either an exit and reentry visa upon the expiry of the work contract with the employer or issue a multiple exit and reentry visa. It is also not allowed for the employer to revoke the exit and reentry visa issued by the expatriate worker.
The ministry noted that the employer would also be entitled to issue an exit and reentry visa for expatriate workers in the same pattern of what had been previously in force.
Regarding the final exit visa, the ministry guide states that this service will be available to both the employer and the worker as well.
According to the new regulations, the employer will have 10 day’s period to inquire about the worker’s request to issue a final exit visa, and in the absence of any response from the employer, the expatriate worker can issue a final exit visa, and the visa’s validity will be 15 days from date of issue.
The ministry stressed that if the expatriate worker permanently leaves the Kingdom during the validity period of the contract, he will be banned from returning to the Kingdom permanently. This is in the event that he obtains an exit and reentry visa and does not return to the Kingdom before the expiry of the visa to complete the remaining period of the work contract.
If a foreign worker leaves the Kingdom on exit and reentry visa and is not able to return to the Kingdom before the expiry of the visa, in such case the right to extend the visa rests fully with the employer.
Regarding the employment mobility service for the expatriate worker, the ministry stipulates that the firms that intend to obtain services of the expatriate worker must comply with the provisions of the Wages Protection Program at a rate of no less than 80 percent for the last three months.
Moreover, there should be 100 percent documentation of the employees’ contracts in the establishment, and at least 80 percent in the commitment of the self-evaluation program along with the mandatory application of an approved internal work regulation.
Only those expatriate workers who are in the categories of professions subject to the Labor Law will be allowed to transfer their services to another employer. Another major condition is that the worker should have completed at least 12 months with the current employer after his first entry into the Kingdom.
There should not be another request pending related to transfer of the service. The transfer of service shall be in compliance with the notice period upon the validity of the documented employment contract.
The Labor Reform Initiative, which aims to improve the contractual relationship between employers and employees in the private sector, is expected to bring about far-reaching positive effects in the Saudi employment market.
The ministry launched LRI on Nov. 4, 2020, revamping the 70-year old sponsorship system. The new services under the initiative will be available through the Absher and Qiwa online platforms.
It applies to all expatriate workers in the private sector except those
in the five categories — private driver, home guard, domestic worker, shepherd, and gardener or farmer.