Discussions are taking place over whether to amend labour law rules to allow workers to move jobs without a No Objection Certificate (NOC) if they have honoured their contracts.
The Minister of Manpower, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri, addressing the Shura Council earlier this week, agreed with members that the two-year visa ban for expat workers should stay, in an effort to protect Omani businesses.
The minister also clarified that discussions are currently being held over the NOC, in response to questions from members.
A manpower ministry spokesman confirmed that a team from Tanfeedh is “discussing the matter”. The discussions are centred around allowing an expatriate who finishes his contract to move to another job without requiring a NOC, according to Al Bakri.
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“If he completes two years, he has the right to move to another employer as the contract between them is over. If he comes back to his country during his contract and violates the contract then he will not be allowed to come back until after two years,” Al Bakri said, during the Shura Council meeting.
The minister was clarifying what is currently being discussed by joint agencies following proposals from the Tanfeedh labs, set up last year to help Oman streamline governance and move away from its dependency on oil and gas.
“There are regulations being studied by a team which state that a worker, if he needs to switch jobs during the two years, should take the employer’s permission or else stay in his job,” the minister clarified.
However, a source at the ministry explained that these are ongoing discussions and to date no amendments have been made to the current law.
“The team is discussing procedures where a worker should stay in his job for two years and if he wants to leave earlier he is not allowed to do so. But in case he finished the contract he will be allowed to move.
“In the regards of keeping the law I think there are regulations by a joint team which states that a worker if he needs to switch jobs during the two years should take the employer’s permission or else stay in his job.
If he completed the two years he has the right to move to another employer as the contract between them is over. If he came back to his country during his contract and violated the contract then he is not allowed to come back until after two years.
“In answer to requests on keeping article 11 of the law (2-year-visa-ban) there were earlier requests to keep it and we are always with this opinion but there were opposed opinions.
“The team had procedures were a worker should stay in his job for two years and if he wants to leave earlier he is not allowed to do so. But if he finished he will be allowed to move.”.
Mohammed Al Farji, a trade unionist in Oman, said he agrees with the Tanfeedh lab proposals and the Minister of Manpower.
“If a worker has completed his job contract, then he should not be stopped in joining a new company without a NOC. However, if somebody is breaking a contract and planning to move to another company, then the NOC rule should apply,” the trade unionist said.
“NOC used as a tool to stop workers who have completed contracts should be removed. It is affecting the private sector. We don’t want workers to be exploited,” the trade unionist added.
One expatriate engineer in an automotive firm in Muscat said removing the NOC option for a worker who has completed the job contract is a welcome one.
“It would be a big relief for workers in Oman. I know many who are struggling under the current system. If it is proposed by Tanfeedh and the minister is hinting at relaxing the NOC option, then government should come out with a clear rule in this as soon as possible. It is being used as an exploitative rule in Oman by some employers,” the engineer added.
Recently, in an exclusive interview, Shahswar Al Balushi, head of the Tanfeedh lab and CEO of Oman Contractors Society, said that it would be “unfair” on companies to scrap NOC but it should be fair to both employer and employee.
“If the expat came into the country to serve a specific purpose and before the two years expires he wants to jump ship, this is unfair for the company. If the company is the one asking this particular expatriate to leave, then I believe automatically the expat should be allowed to search for other opportunities and to join another company, without having to take an NOC,” the CEO said.
“I have fulfilled my contract, I should be allowed to join any other institution in Oman for that purpose. If you leave the company before the contract is terminated, then the NOC has to apply,” he said, adding that would be fair because all the elements of the NOC would be covered.
“Right now the NOC is saying regardless of what the situation is, you have to get the NOC from the company.
“I think let’s make a change, let’s look at what is fair for both parties and make it flexible. It is there to protect both companies and employees. We should look at it that way. We should not gauge it to one side only. There is a contractual obligation between the two parties.”