RIYADH — The Ministry of Labor has drafted a new law that will end individual sponsorship in the Kingdom.
The law will be submitted to the Council of Ministers in the next few months for final approval, an informed source was quoted as saying. The official’s comments were reported in a section of the Arabic press Saturday.
The law will see the creation of an agency affiliated to the ministry to look after foreign workers, a step which marks the end of the role of the traditional sponsor. The commission is likely to be called the “Foreign Workers’ Affairs Agency”. The agency is expected to be headquartered in Riyadh with branches all over the Kingdom.
The legislation prevents employers from holding the passports of their employees. It also strips the sponsor of the power of issuing an objection letter which currently prevents employees from bringing their families or visiting their relatives in other regions of the Kingdom.
It also proposes the issuing of a mandatory insurance policy to guarantee the financial rights of employers and employees. The policy is also meant to cover the payment of employees’ financial entitlements for at least six months.
The insurance also covers employees’ ticket fares in case of the deportation of the employer. Employers are also covered for risks such as theft, cheating, embezzlement, breach of confidentiality and any other damages incurred by employees.
The sponsorship system is a topic of heated debate in the country as the unjustified extortion of expatriate employees by their sponsors continues.
The sponsorship system supposedly organizes work contracts, salary, visas, vacation and repatriation. However, there have been many instances of sponsors exploiting and mistreating workers under them by various means.
A sponsor might take an employee’s passport and Iqama (residence permit) or refuse to pay wages on time. Instead of providing jobs to expatriate workers under them, some sponsors ask them to find work elsewhere and force them to pay a monthly fee. All these are unlawful in Saudi Arabia, but expatriate workers do not complain to the authorities fearing further mistreatment and deportation.
Statistics issued by the Ministry of Labor confirm that about nine million expatriates currently live and work in the Kingdom. — SG