Debate on Bahrain's proposed expat job switch law

Expats to wait for three years, instead of one, before switching jobs

  
General view of Bahrain World Trade Centre in Manama, Bahrain, June 20, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose

General view of Bahrain World Trade Centre in Manama, Bahrain, June 20, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose

REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed

MANAMA: MPs have been urged to reconsider a plan to force expatriates to wait for three years, instead of one, before switching jobs.

Parliament in January approved a proposed amendment to the 2006 Labour Market Regulatory Authority Set-up Law despite government objections that it would breach international labour laws and rights.

The Cabinet was forced to draft it as a proper law, but has attached with it reasons why the change shouldn’t be enforced.

“Switching jobs is not a major problem in the country with only one per cent of the total expatriate workforce being affected,” said the Cabinet.

“The switch option benefits both the employee and the employer,” it added.

“Any employee unhappy at a workplace will not do tasks assigned to him because he doesn’t want to be there anymore, and it is in the best interest of the employer to let such an employee go, to ensure work is not affected.

“In the end, an employee is not a slave or a prisoner and the Constitution prohibits forcing anyone to work against their will.”

The new rule is currently being reviewed by the Parliament’s services committee and will be taken up for debate in October when the National Assembly reconvenes after the summer break.

“The three-year clause was needed to protect the interests of Bahraini businessmen,” said MP Yousif Al Thawadi.

“These businessmen are spending a lot of money to bring young expatriate workers to the country, provide them with training, education, accommodation, permits and licences.

“However, often a worker leaves after a year to set up his own business, which is unfair.

“He takes away the customers by offering the same services at a cheaper rate.

“Some even open shops near their old sponsor, while others roam around on bicycles offering on-the-go services.”

Previously, expatriate workers were allowed to freely transfer to a new job, even after a day in the old job, but former MPs and Shura Council members insisted on a condition of a minimum of one year’s wait, to protect the original employers.

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