Saudi’s labour reforms take effect with expats now having greater rights

Published: 15 Mar 2021

Online Desk

Reforms to Saudi Arabia’s ‘kafala’ sponsorship system have taken effect from Sunday, March 14, offering expatriate workers in the country greater flexibility in the workplace.

The ‘Labour Relation Initiative’, first announced by the kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development in November, allows expatriate workers labour mobility, as well as amends existing exit procedures, reports Gulf Business.

Expatriate workers in the kingdom can now transfer their sponsorship from one employer to another upon the expiry of their work contract without the need for their former employer’s approval.

The move is aimed at driving greater competition in the local market by permitting workers to change their employers.

Expat workers in the kingdom can also request exit/re-entry visas and secure a final exit visa online, without requiring prior consent from their employers.

The three services will be made available to the public through the Absher smartphone application and the electronic web portal of the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development.

The initiative is expected to alleviate disputes between local employers and expatriate workers relating to employee mobility and exit visa requests.

The reforms will complement several similar initiatives to improve the efficiency of the local job market, including the wage protection system (WPS), the electronic documentation of all labour contracts, and the launch of the ‘Widy’ mechanism for out of court settlement of labour disputes in the kingdom.

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