'Is a six-month probation period normal in Saudi Arabia?'

The official work contract cannot state a probationary period of 180 days but can say 90 days with a possible extension by agreement

The Kingdom Tower, operated by Kingdom Holding Co., left, stands alongside the King Fahd highway, illuminated by the light trails of passing traffic, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Saudi Arabian stocks led Gulf Arab markets lower after oil extended its slump from the lowest close since 2004. Photographer: Waseem Obaidi/Bloomberg
Powered by automated translation
An embedded image that relates to this article

Question: I have very recently moved to Saudi Arabia to take up a job based in Dammam. I read the contract before moving but it now seems that I am on a probationary period of six months when I thought it was just three months.

This is quite unsettling and while things seem OK, I don’t want to move my family to join me until I know I will be staying.

The issue is that my daughter will need to go to school and the six-month date is after the start of the school year. As she is 11 years old, it is important that she joins at the start of the school year but I need permanence to organise this.

Is a six-month probation period normal as it seems long to me? MC, Riyadh

Answer: I understand that the Ministry of Education for Saudi Arabia has not yet published the calendar for the 2024-2025 academic year but several schools have stated that the first term of the school year will start on August 18 or 19. We can assume that most will start that week. Given that MC started work on May 5, this date is relevant.

Saudi Arabia has its own labour laws, and employment is regulated by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. All the details of employment should be clearly stated in the official work contract.

The initial probation period is 90 days per Article 53 of the latest Saudi labour law and all contracts must state this under the Qiwa system.

The complication is that this notice period can be extended, by up to another 90 days, for a total of up to 180 days, with the agreement of both parties. These time periods do not include public holidays such as Eid Al Adha.

The official work contract cannot state a probationary period of 180 days as that is not the case, but can say it is 90 days with a possible extension by agreement. That is the only legally binding contract.

Qiwa is an automated digital system and only the Qiwa contracts are legally enforceable. This is what MC will have in accordance with the change in the law, although this change is relevant to all employees.

I suggest that MC speaks to his employer to seek clarity not only regarding the law, but also to explain the family position. A good employer should be understanding in such situations, as a happy employee is a productive employee.

Q: One of my neighbours has a housemaid that I see occasionally. A few days ago, I noticed that she had a big bandage on her hand so I stopped to ask if she was OK.

She quickly said she had a bad burn and I asked if she had seen a doctor about it. She then said “no” as she doesn’t have any medical insurance and her employers just gave her a bandage.

Is it not the law that everyone in Dubai should have some medical insurance? Is there anything she can do about it? SB, Dubai

A: It is indeed a legal requirement that all Dubai residents have medical insurance and for all domestic workers, this insurance should be arranged by and paid for by the employer. The employer should be well aware as the deadline for insuring staff was 2016.

All domestic workers have a contract of employment in line with Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation rules. Federal Decree-Law No 9 of 2022 Concerning Domestic Workers is the main legislation that sets out the terms of employment and responsibilities for all parties in respect of all categories of domestic workers.

Article 11 of this law states that it is the obligation of the employer to “incur the costs of the domestic worker's medical care in accordance with the health system in effect in the state, or, alternatively, provide the domestic worker with appropriate health insurance in accordance with the laws and regulations governing the state's health system”.

It is clear that the employer must arrange a suitable medical insurance policy or, alternatively, that they cover all relevant expenses incurred by the employee if unwell or injured.

Cabinet Resolution No 106 of 2022, pertaining to the executive regulations of Federal Decree-Law No 9 of 2022 Concerning Domestic Workers, specifies the fines if laws are broken.

If the employer fails to cover the medical expenses for the domestic worker’s treatment, they can be fined from Dh500 to Dh5,000 for each case.

If an employer fails to provide an employee with the appropriate level of medical care, the individual can contact the ministry, although I appreciate this may cause other issues.

If they were placed via an agency, they should contact the agency to resolve the issue on their behalf, as the recruiting agency also has responsibilities in this situation.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 30 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com or at www.financialuae.com

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only

Updated: June 02, 2024, 5:00 AM