Saudi Workplace Prepares for More Women Workers

New Laws and Facilities Make Saudi Offices Women-friendlier
A picture taken late on June 3, 2021 shows Saudi staff checking attendant's mobiles for vaccine certificates or a negative Covid-19 test, at the entrance of a theatre hosting the first concert in the Saudi capital Riyadh since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Getty)

With more Saudi women joining the public, military and private sectors in recent years, more challenges are arising including the need for easy transportation, availability of nurseries for female employees with little kids, and most importantly, protection from sexual and non-sexual gender harassment. 

More than 130,000 Saudi women have entered the labor market since 2016 with more expected to join. Women’s participation in a variety of sectors has increased to reach 41% of the public sector and 32% of the private sector with a few hundred employees in the ministries of interior and defense.

Over the past decade, the Saudi government has introduced several measures, reformed the laws, and provided subsidies to help women participate in the economy while feeling safe and protected. Let’s have a quick look at how workplaces became women-friendlier than ever.

EASIER TRANSPORTATION

Saudi working women used to face the challenge of getting to work and back home because of the high cost of transportation. In October 2017, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development launched a program called “Wusool” in cooperation with the Human Resources Development Fund. “Wusool”, meaning arrival in English, provides up to USD 300 in governmental   transportation allowance for female private sector employees, who make USD 2,133 or less a month. This allowance is provided for those who don’t have cars.

In June 2018, both Saudi and non-Saudi women were given the right to drive cars in the Kingdom. The historic decision has made it easier for women to get to their workplaces without the hustle of waiting for taxis or home drivers.

“The transportation used to cost me around USD 400. Now, I am paying a monthly car installment of USD 300 and USD 120 for fuel and maintenance. I know I am paying almost the same amount of money I used to pay before leasing my car, but I have the freedom now to go anywhere and the car will be mine after the end of the car leasing contract. Working women have a much better status”, said Nisreen Salem, a Saudi private sector employee.

NURSERIES & CHILDCARE

Some female employees prefer to quit their jobs after getting married or having a child. That’s why their employers suffer from lower rates of talent retention. To avoid this, major companies have created nurseries to keep female employees’ pre-school kids in safe hands. However, small companies cannot afford this.

According to the Saudi labor law, mothers-to-be have the right to enjoy a fully paid 10-week maternity leave, and lactating mothers can take one hour off from their working day to breastfeed their babies. This hour is included in the working hours.

PROTECTION FROM HARASSEMENT

Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Harassment Law came into effect in June 2018. The heinous criminal offense is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine. The law imposes a 5-year prison sentence and/or a fine of what equals USD 80,000 if the harassment occurs at a place work.

Any woman who is exposed to harassment can report the perpetrator the police. A smart phone app by the Saudi Ministry of Interior called “Kulluna Amn” (All for Security) has a special section for reporting harassment and attaching documents and videos, if any.

“Women feel safer and more protected. Sexual and non-sexual harassment can be easily reported. Women are encouraged to break the silence to bring harassers to justice just with a click of a button. Not only harassment can be reported, threatening and blackmailing are also included”, Waleed Ahmed, an HR specialist told Majalla.

“HR Departments are required to take immediate action if the victim complains to them. The harassment incidents must be reported to the police. This ensures women will stay safe at workplaces and raises the standards of the work environment. Harassment is a heinous crime and perpetrators must pay a high price”, he concluded.

 

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