Muscat: It's here to stay for now, but the No Objection Certificate system could be modified to ensure it works for everyone, according to the head of a government think tank on manpower.
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"I think expats must understand the company has outsourced a certain job to them so they should be fair to the company by honouring the two-year contract. In this manner, the NOC is good and should stay and expats must honour their contract," said Shashwar Al Balushi, who is also CEO of the Oman Society of Contractors.
With more than 35,000 votes cast in a recent Twitter poll by a government policy implementation unit, there was 59 per cent support for the NOC ruling.
Read here: No objection to NOC, Oman government poll reveals
"However, the NOC structure must be modified to make sure it works well. If an expat worker has completed his two year contract and wants to leave the current employer, he must be allowed to leave without the need for an NOC," Al Balushi added.
"The point is that he has the experience of working in Oman. Making him leave Oman is bad for the economy as the company has spent a lot on training the employee to understand the Omani market.
"Now bringing a new expat worker from outside will take the same resources to train, which only increases costs," explained Al Balushi. "If the worker wants to leave before completing the two year contract, an NOC should be required. This will protect companies in Oman and balance the NOC equation."
Currently, an employee needs to obtain an NOC from the employer to shift jobs either in the middle of the contract or at the end of it, giving the company enormous power over a worker's career progression within the country.
According to Sheikh Salah Al Mawali, deputy CEO of Oman's SME Fund, workers must be allowed freedom of movement, and it is up to the employees to stay loyal to the company.
"I think it is good to let people move around but again if I see a CV of a person that has moved around a lot, working for a company for less than two or three years, I feel it affects his or her reputation," he said.
"This is how companies must operate. Freedom of movement is good but within certain limits that don't hurt the economy and business," he added.
In tune with the rest of the GCC economies, Oman has been struggling with low oil prices and opening the employment market will play an important role in stimulating economic growth, experts believe.
"The NOC law has to stay but the tweak is very important for economic growth. We can't have a good business environment if a person who has fulfilled the contract has to obtain an NOC from the employer," said Imtiaz Sikder, a financial advisor at a reputed firm in Muscat. "We need people to come to Oman for longer term instead of working just two years and leaving, something that is harming the economy.
"This change can help the business environment without harming the businesses in any way," he added.
Jassim Al Balushi, Deputy Head of Education & Professional Development Department at Caledonian College, said:
"According to my understanding, the NOC is denied to those who do bad work or don't do a complete job on time, so if they give NOCs to these people, they will come and do the same thing with other companies," he said. "This condition of NOC therefore helps people work hard and stick to their work ethics.
"But if they keep it like this, staff might be de-motivated from working hard," added Al Balushi. "The prevalence of the NOC depends on many administrative institutes and the Royal Oman Police, but my point of view is that it is not good for Oman, unless the person has done something wrong or has committed a serious mistake that will stop him from joining another institution.
"People should be given the freedom to change jobs," he added. "People have their families and many expenses here and today, if you work in one institution and tomorrow you terminate that person, where will he go? He may have taken a loan to buy a new car and now he cannot settle that loan, so this is not good. We all work in the same basket so it should be open to everyone."