A friendlier workplace for women
An official source in the Ministry of Labor said that the ministry had imposed fines and penalties on violators of the regulations set for female employment in companies.
The source said that the penalties include preventing the violating establishment from recruiting labor, renewing visas, transferring sponsorships and withholding human resource support. Companies will also be required to pay fines ranging from SR1,000 to SR 5,000.
A draft law published on the community’s portal to participate in the “Together” initiative had 11 conditions for suitable female work environment. If establishments are able to meet these conditions, they will not be required to get a permit from the Ministry of Labor, the source said.
The conditions will apply to all companies and establishments with female employees, regardless of whether they are working there temporarily or undergoing training.
The draft confirmed the independence and privacy of women by providing them with a separate building or a special section. Moreover, establishments should have signs which clearly say “No men allowed”.
The buildings or sections allotted to female staff should be equipped with fire extinguishers in addition to the basic services such as prayer areas, rest areas and toilets. The facilities should also have suitable furniture.
Establishments should define the name of a supervisor or section head for the female sections in their work force records. They should keep a register for working women with their job data including name, nationality, civil register, residency number, wages and job title.
If the establishment receives a lot of people, it should appoint a security system for the women’s section. Women should abide by modest dress codes and be committed to Shariah dress rules, or wear the official uniform of the establishment.
The draft said that the penalties for the violators would include the withholding of support from the Human Resource Fund for a period of three years for the first violation, and five years for the second violation in addition to a fine of between SR1,000 and SR5,000.
These conditions have led to complaints from some businessmen regarding the difficulty of separating men and women employees especially in the administrative affairs department.
They cite the cases of women who have acquired managerial posts which make them responsible for both male and female departments making it difficult to put the segregation in place. However, they said that the existence of private offices in addition to other services guaranteed privacy for women.
Hattoun Farisi, director of employees’ affairs in Al-Kabili Holdings, pointed to the impracticality of some of these conditions especially in administrative affairs. “Implementing these decisions will raise the cost for business owners and weaken the chances for promoting female employees,” she said.
She stressed the importance of looking at the nature of businesses in a wider perspective and see how the implementation of the conditions for female employment can be carried out, particularly in businesses which declare their inability to separate male employees from the female staff.
The government’s initiative to include more women in the work force has led to many opportunities for qualified Saudi women.
However, the law of the land requires a strict implementation of the Shariah, which enjoins that men and women not related by blood or marital alliance may not share the same space.