Workers excluded from labour protections
Saudi Arabia went through a period of legislative change in the past years, and legal reforms came into force on 14 March 2021.
With the reforms, the ability of workers to transfer jobs has been facilitated, and employers' permission to leave the country is no longer required. Another important reform in Saudi Arabia was that of the labour courts, which have been automated to ensure speedy and effective justice and improve transparency.
For decades, restrictions on mobility have been used by employers to exploit and abuse migrant workers. Therefore, these developments were much awaited and constituted a big step for millions of migrant workers in the country.
However, the reform did not address all the long-standing issues, as it only applies to around 6.7 million migrant workers. 3.6 million domestic workers, farmers, shepherds, home guards, and private drivers remain excluded. In addition, the reform still contains restrictions whereby workers can only transfer sponsorship without the consent of the sponsor after completing one year of contract or upon the expiry of the work contract. Domestic workers face more restrictive conditions to change an employer within two years of the contract. Moreover, the reform did not lift all restrictions to exit and re-enter visas, especially for domestic workers.