Jul 12 2011
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Women protected from laborious jobs
According to international standards, Saudi women were prevented from working in these jobs that stress their unsuitability to undertake certain jobs for physical reason, Fakeih said at a press conference here.
"The woman may be pregnant or breast feeding, so she will not be in a position to take up tough jobs," he added.
Fakeih, while emphasizing his ministry's sole role in enforcing rules and regulations concerning the employment of Saudi women in the private sector, said: "The ministry, however, does not want to overrule other bodies in supervising markets such as the security organizations and the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice."
Fakeih pointed out that new regulations concerning the employment of women in the private sector would be complemented by regulations concerning the Saudization of women jobs to be issued soon by the Interior Ministry, which will also appoint special committees to carry out this task.
The minister also referred to the royal decree issued by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to create 1,000 inspector jobs for men and women in the ministry and said this decision would be executed from next year.
On the more immediate available positions in lingerie shops, Fakeih said there were enough women who could fill positions in shops selling women clothes that may far surpass the actual needs of the market. He also said the working hours for women working in these shops were not fixed and were left to the discretion of the municipalities and governorates in each region.
"The shops selling women accessories that do not abide by the new rules and regulations will face various penalties including an immediate halt of all services and may be finally closed down," he warned.
On the employment of women in lingerie and accessories' shops, the ministry said such workers should be Saudi nationals. It said the owners of shops selling such clothing should conceal what was inside the shops and prevent men from entering.
Fakeih also revealed that the number of young Saudi men and women registered under the Hafiz (incentive) program has exceeded a million but is currently being verified. "Things will be clear early next year when the program is implemented," he added.
The minister said no timeframe is in place for the employment of Saudi women in factories until the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has provided the ministry with the exact number of qualified women.
"These decisions are not meant to change our customs or traditions. The Saudi woman has every right to work. We are only implementing regulations that will protect her and ensure her rights," he said.
He added that the new decisions were only for Saudi women and did not include foreigners. Fakeih assured girls from Saudi mothers and foreign fathers that they would be treated as Saudis according to the new decisions regulating the work of Saudi women in the private sector.
Employment of women in factories does not require obtaining permits from the ministry, he said while setting out the ministry's conditions for the employment of women in production lines. The ministry also announced that private establishments employing women would be rated as "excellent" in the Nitaqat program if they accounted for 7 percent or more of the entire workforce.
It clarified that these establishments will be in the green area if women constituted 5 percent of the total manpower, but would be banded in the yellow area if their number were less than 3 percent.
The ministry said women would be counted within the Nitaqat program if their ages are not less than 20 or more than 35 years, as long as they were registered with the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) and that they were working full time. The owner should present a bank statement to prove that women employees have received their full payments.
The ministerial decisions said women working from their homes should ensure their contracts signed with the business owners include benefits such as medical insurance for themselves and their dependents. They warned establishments who register women in bogus jobs to meet Saudization targets of severe punishments, including embargoes on foreign recruitment, transfer of iqamas (residence permits) and fines. Women who accept such positions will be barred from receiving support from the Human Resources Development Fund for three to five years.
The ministerial resolutions also prevented gender mixing in these shops but exempted shops with separate sections for men and women. They said women workers should not be less than three in each shift.
They asked shop owners to provide security guards or an electronic security system and bathrooms for women not more than 50 meters away from the shop.
The decisions asked working women to be decently dressed according to Shariah with abaya and head cover.
The rules require all workers in this case should be women numbering not less than 10 in each shift, constituting about one third of the entire work force on the production lines.
It is imperative for the employer to provide safe and decent uniforms to women working on production lines and also to provide them with special prayer areas, bathrooms and restrooms.
According to the new decisions, female workers could be employed in the administration offices of these factories only if these offices have special sections.
The regulations further stipulated that khulwa (seclusion) between the two genders is strictly forbidden and employers should make special arrangements to ensure that men and women don't mix.
They strictly prevented business owners from asking women to work in the factories before six in the morning or after five in the afternoon. They also prevented employers from asking women to work more than eight hours a day and 48 hours a week. Work hours for women during Ramadan should not exceed six in a day or 36 hours in a week.
The regulations prevented any disparity in wages between men and women doing the same work but allowed employers to employ them as part timers if they so wished.
They asked factories owners to sign official contracts with their women employees that outlined all their financial rights, medical insurance and others. The regulations warned owners of factories that they would be penalized if any of these rules were broken and said the ministry would constantly inspect the factories to check any violations or irregularities.
© Arab News 2011
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