Saudi Arabia to allow domestic workers to switch jobs without employer's consent

Reforms intended to provide workers with greater rights, increased job mobility and freedom of movement

Filipina domestic workers after shopping at a mall in Riyadh. AFP
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Saudi Arabia will allow domestic workers to switch jobs without their employer's consent, in an attempt to give more freedom to workers, the department for Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD) said on Wednesday.

Workers in Saudi Arabia will have the right to transfer their services if their original employer transfers them to another employer or company without the worker's consent, if the employer terminates the labour contract during the probation period, if there is a delay in paying wages for three consecutive months, failure to pick up the domestic worker from their port of arrival and if there is an existing unresolved official complaint by the domestic worker against the employer for mistreatment and violation of human rights.

The government is already working to transfer workers permits without the employer's consent in 10 cases where employees were not paid their salaries and were assigned potentially hazardous tasks.

Dr Awwad Alawwad, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) president and chairman of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, said that the reforms are an example of new policies that provide millions of foreign workers in the kingdom increased job mobility, freedom of movement, and enhanced labour rights.

"This decision comes within the framework of the ministry's constant quest to develop its decisions and legislation to make the Saudi labour market attractive and in line with the best international markets," HRSD said.

Saudis have welcomed the news.

"I have seen employers use helpers at home and their personal businesses, working them overtime and do not care about their physical or mental health. I am really happy that domestic workers will get the right to switch jobs whenever they want and will not feel stuck with one employer," said Ayesha Sabie, a Saudi woman in Jeddah.

The new law aims to preserve the rights of employers, by regulating the domestic labour market and hopes to improve the contractual relationship to help raise efficiency and flexibility of recruitment.

"We have suffered for many years being under the sponsorship of one employer and we were not allowed to change jobs because our iqama [resident permit] was under them. This is great news, now no one has to endure suffering or abuse from anyone and can move with dignity to another job whenever they want," Mary Abdullah, a helper from the Philippines who works in Jeddah, told The National.

Updated: August 10, 2022, 1:42 PM