Oman employment update – Covid-19
Following our article published on 15 April 2020, the Supreme Committee dealing with Covid-19 in Oman (the Supreme Committee) has decided to extend the support offered to the private sector until the end of this year.
1 Reducing the fees for the renewal of non-Omani national's labour cards until the end of December 2020, the fees will be reduced to OMR 201 from OMR 301. In addition, the Supreme Committee has restarted the renewal of expired labour cards for entities with an Omani workforce and owners of small and medium enterprises registered as such with social insurance.
2 Exemption from fees and fines resulting from expired labour permits for non-Omani workers, provided that they are repatriated.
3 To allow employers to renew expired labour permits for employees currently outside the Sultanate during the period where travel is restricted, as well as exempting them from the penalties resulting from the failure to renew on time. This must be done after coordination with the competent authorities. It is not clear what will happen once the airport opens on 1 October, nor is there any direction given on what needs to be done with the relevant authorities.
4 Extending the term of any labour permit that has expired in order to allow non-Omani nationals to re-enter the Sultanate.
5 The Supreme Committee has also stated that work permits can now be issued again for non-Omani workers for temporary or limited employment. The fees for such permits are variable and will be calculated based on number of workers the company seeks to employ.
6 Companies owned by the same shareholders may second their employees to work in any other group company as necessary.
7 Companies may seek the assistance of workers registered with non-affiliated companies to work for them, provided that there is a written agreement covering the arrangement. This formally authorises secondment in the Sultanate for the fist time, whilst it has been accepted in the past it has never been officially recognised. It will be interesting to see if this new flexibility continues once the Covid-19 pandemic is resolved.
8 Companies continue to have the right to terminate their non-Omani workers' employment contracts with the condition that workers' entitlements and repatriation costs are paid.
These mechanisms continue to temporarily suspend certain Omani labour law restrictions in an effort to revitalise the private sector and ease some difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessary measures taken by the Supreme Committee. The move to permit secondment of a company's non-Omani workforce is a particularly notable change which clearly demonstrates the Omani government's consideration of the private sector's needs at this time. This is a welcome move from the government and will allow companies much needed flexibility in relation to their workforce.
It is also notable that, whilst the unfettered ability to terminate expatriate workers has been extended, there remains no such right in relation to Omani workers. In an earlier package of measures, the Supreme Committee did permit a reduction in hours and pay for Omani workers, this was due to expire in July and has not been formally extended by the Supreme Committee.
These temporary measures, combined with the changes to minimum Omani salaries appear to demonstrate that labour reform is a priority for the government. We will continue to provide further updates on employment law reform as soon as they are provided by the government.