Juggling responsibilities, Saudis cheer new flexible work rules

Saad Al Hazani hopes the new rules will help him get his degree while keeping a job to support his family

Saudis shop at a supermarket at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on May 22, 2020, as Muslims prepare to celebrate the upcoming Eid al-Fitr, that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)

When Saad Al Hazani postponed his studies four years ago to provide for his family, he never thought he would be able to finish his education. But a new initiative from the government to increase flexible working is giving him new hope.

The 35-year-old said working as a salesman in the morning and studying business administration at night was “a real struggle.”

“I could not continue my education because I used to work day and night, so being able to go to work now a few hours, it would make my life much easier,” he said.

Since Sunday, Saudi private-sector employees can now accept hourly work without requiring employers to pay holiday or end of service benefits.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development launched the “flexible work system” to enable job seekers to engage in the labour market, increase their chances of finding a permanent job and empower the national workforce to raise their skills and experience.

The programme is also designed to support the private sector in meeting its urgent, temporary and seasonal needs for Saudi workers.

Ahmed Al Uthman, a human resources manager at a retail company in Jeddah welcomed the move to encourage flexible working practices and said he hopes it will work for both the employee and their employer.

Mr Al Uthman spoke to The National following the implementation of the new system.

“As a business, it is a good selling point that if you can encourage flexible working hours where you can, I hope the new system will increase the employment levels of Saudis who cannot or do not want to work in a full-time job,” he said.

Mr Al Uthman stressed that flexibility in working hours can grant employees comfort at work and at the same time help businesses hire better for their productivity levels.

Lujain Abdul Latif, who works in a store in the Red Sea Mall in Jeddah said she is looking for flexibility in their next role.

“Having a flexible work allows me to help support my family and be a good mother at the same time,” she said.

“I love to attend events and volunteer for various activities that are happening in town. Now, I could apply for a flexible job which allows me to be the person that I want to be and also take care of my family,” she added.

Khalid Al Harithy, a lawyer based in Jeddah said thanks to a new initiative, Saudi businesses will have even more ways to hire job seekers, reducing unemployment and ensuring income opportunities as the Covid-19 crisis rages on.

“This is a significant step forward as a business to acknowledge and encourage our workforce that has unique needs and is going through different life stages,” he said.

“Our young Saudis need flexibility and trust, and this new exciting plan gives that and more.”

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al Rajhi said on Saturday that this regulation would contribute to support the Kingdom’s economy in terms of establishments and individuals to overcome the current crisis.

It will also be instrumental in achieving the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030 by raising the rates of Saudi participation in the labour market and reducing the unemployment rate.