By QAISAR HAMED METAWEA ( Opinion on ARAB NEWS )
One of the aims of enacting labor laws is to protect the rights of employees from any abuse of their employers. Additionally, forming a robust system to resolve disputes is a cornerstone to protecting the rights of employees. However, having a fragile system to resolve disputes may, in actual fact, hinder protecting the rights of employees.
Saudi Arabia has endeavored to protect the rights of employees as well as employers. The new Labor Law of Saudi Arabia, which was issued by the Royal Decree No. M/51 dated Sept. 27, 2005, was enacted to regulate labor matters as well as disputes. Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia has a serious dilemma with respect to resolving labor disputes in a timely manner. As such, disputes may take up to two years or more to be resolved for no justified reasons.
In most cases, the dispute process initially commences by an employee filing a complaint before the labor office. The labor office then attempts to resolve the dispute amicably between both parties. However, in the event of an unreachable agreement, the dispute will then be referred by the labor office to the Preliminary Commission for Settlement of Labor Disputes. When the Preliminary Commission issues its decision, it is deemed preliminary and not final in most of the cases and may be appealed before the High Commission for Settlement of Labor Disputes by one or both parties within thirty days from the date of utterance of the decision issued in the presence of the parties or from the date of notification of the decision in other cases.
However, if the decision of the Preliminary Commission is not appealed by one or both parties within the aforesaid period, the decision is considered final and enforceable. Nonetheless, if the decision of the Preliminary Commission is appealed before the High Commission, then the High Commission will only review the part(s) of the decision that one or both parties are appealing and issue its decision accordingly.
The duration of the above process could take up to two years or more; which equates to an absolute nightmare for employees, in particular expatriates.