Classifieds powered by Gulf News

Bahrain's decision to scrap sponsorship rule elicits mixed response

Chamber demands protection for employers following move to scrap sponsorship system.

Image Credit:Gulf News Archive
Asian workers stand outside a construction site in Manama, in this file photo.
Gulf News

Manama: Bahrain's business community and the federation of trade unions on Tuesday expressed concern over a move to scrap employment sponsorship system for expatriates.

Majeed Al Allawi, Labour Minister, on Monday said Bahrain would implement a new labour law from August 1 that allows foreign workers to switch jobs without their employer's consent. "This is the end of the sponsorship system, which does not differ much from slavery," the minister said.

The new law, a major demand by rights activists, allows workers to switch jobs simply by informing their employers of their intention to end the contract. The notice should be made through registered mail and according to the timeframe stipulated in the employment contract, but must not exceed three months.

"The new employer will then register the worker with the labour authorities, but he or she will have to produce the end of contract notice sent to the former employer," Al Allawi said.

The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) in March investigated 5,000 suspected ghost companies set up to cash in on visa racketeering. The investigation is part of a crackdown prompted by the discovery of 20,815 companies who were breaking Bahrain's labour laws.

Companies faking Bahrainisation levels are also under investigation amid reports that a high number of Bahraini women were abusively registered as working in the construction sector.

However, a Bahrain Chamber for Commerce and Industry (BCCI) official said they had some concerns about the new law. "We do not object to the principles of the law ... We, however, want specific criteria and conditions that protect the business community from the expected damages," Adel Al Masqati, BCCI vice-chairman, said. "We demand, for example, that the employee does not switch jobs until after one or two years with the employer who brought him into the country and helped train him," he said.

Salman Al Mahfoodh, the head of the Bahrain Federation of Trade Unions, said that the new law could result in medium and small enterprises losing their workers who would be lured by the more important perks offered by larger companies.

Expats warmly welcomed the decision to scrap the sponsorship system. "I am so pleased with the new law because it means that I am no longer held like a captive who has problems controlling his destiny," said Lateef Yousuf.

Switching jobs: Terms and conditions

- An employee can resign and switch jobs before the expiry of the contract. An employee cannot resign or wait until the end of his contract before getting or looking for a new job. He or she must have a new job at least one month before the end of his or her existing job.

- According to the law, an employee whose contract expired or who resigned but had no job must leave the country immediately.

- The employer has no right to include in the employment contract any article or clause that stipulates that the employee can leave only at the end of the contract.

- The new law applies to all foreign workers in both the public and private sectors. Bahrain currently has around 510,000 foreigners, slightly less than half of the total population.

Your comments

It is hoped the new Labour Law is able to establish a better job market, promotes welfare and economic environment and harmonously promote progress, prosperity and peace for all stakeholders.
Jerome Quadros
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: May 05, 2009, 18:43

I think this would help the employees to remain easy at work and perform at their best.Thumbs Up Bahrain!
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: May 05, 2009, 17:38

Best descision made at the right time. These are days of great thinking, respect for all people. excellent
Posted: May 05, 2009, 17:36

Liberating news, but effects for the employers should be carefully considered too....
Posted: May 05, 2009, 14:50

This is very promising move for all the workers and it will incease the quality and confidence of workers. Authorities should consider the benefit and comfort of people. The labour flow will create a competitive labour market . this is good for the employees.
Shams Al Deen
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: May 05, 2009, 14:46

This is great effort by bahrain gov .
Ras Al Khaimah,UAE
Posted: May 05, 2009, 14:41

I think it is great move on behalf of bahraini government and like here in Europe we can work wherever we want. It is freedom which counts after all we are equal and i am sure the performance of the employees will improve because they are free pshycologically.
Posted: May 05, 2009, 14:33

It is a great news.
Mathew John
Posted: May 05, 2009, 13:42

I think this a really nice move from the government of Bahrain this will provide more security expatraites and will allow them to explore their feilds.
Ismail Adam
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: May 05, 2009, 13:23

This is a very bold step. I think this will encourage a better workforce in the middle-east. It will demand that the market be more competitive and that illegal practices of visa trading and explotation of workers through visa trading is dissolved. The Gulf needs to be streamlined and there needs to be labor quotas, so this will send more incompetent workers home and I think this will improve business performance because the employee will be continually evaluated by their productivity levels.
Paul Sanders
Posted: May 05, 2009, 13:06

Excellent - People should be free to work where ever they want and when ever they want.
Posted: May 05, 2009, 12:37