Muscat: Oman’s two-year employment ban for expatriates who leave their jobs without a No Objection Certificate (NOC) should remain in place at least until the economic condition of the Sultanate improves, trade unions and government officials insist.
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That’s despite some bosses complaining the policy is leading to a brain drain within the existing expat workforce and making others think twice about coming to work in Oman.
Read here: Royal Oman Police aims for clarity over No Objection Certificate
Said Salem Al Saadi, the advisor to the Minister of Manpower, told the Times of Oman, “The companies bring people, train them and somebody just leaves the company because he is offered better salary elsewhere. It [the rule] protects companies.
“This rule brings stability in the labour market,” he added.
Asked if the rule could be relinquished in the future, he said, “It depends on the circumstances and the labour market situation.”
Currently, an expatriate worker can switch jobs in the Sultanate only if his/her employer agrees to grant the worker a no-objection letter.
Without this letter, the law prevents the expat from returning to Oman for work before two years.
Read also: ‘NOC doesn’t guarantee return to Oman’ ROP official re-affirms
“Oman is facing many challenges. The first is there are thousands of Omanis looking for jobs. The number isn’t less than 30,000. At the same time, the economy... with the low oil prices. So the government itself and the Omanis will make all their efforts to employ nationals on a priority,” said Ahmed Al Hooti, member of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).
“They are not going to look for foreigners as much as they are looking to solve these problems. We don’t need to be worried about the talented expat moving elsewhere. Of all these Omanis, I believe at least 30-40 per cent [of the 30,000] will be talented. So we have enough people available in the market.”
Mohammad Al Farji, a member of the Oman Trade Union, said, “This hard rule is to control the private sector. We need to support it. Some people just run away from the company that brings them to Oman.”
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Calling NOC, a “good system”, officials of the Shanfari Group of Companies say the rule of having mandatory NOC shouldn’t be relinquished.
“There is a commitment from the company side. It brings an employee to Oman and when an employee wants to leave or join another company after say six or seven months, there is a wastage of resources, expenditure, time and training and all that. So NOC is a good system,” Sheikh Zakaria bin Said Al Shanfari, Managing Director, said.
Mark Pudwell, of recruitment services company Competence HR, said that the current NOC system may deter skilled job-seekers from considering opportunities in Oman.
“Some nations have recognised the fact that they cannot attract highly skilled people by restricting the terms of their contracts,” he said.
However, he said that professional job-seekers have a moral obligation to see out the terms of their contract and failure to do so should result in them being subjected to a work ban.
“So perhaps the NOC system could reflect this by permitting those who have fulfilled the terms of their contract to seek similar roles in country and sector. This would ensure that these skills are not lost nor discouraged,” he suggested.
At the other end of the argument, some company bosses report facing difficulties in hiring expat workers.
“It’s limiting the talent,” said Philip K Philip, group CEO of the Muscat Insurance Company and Muscat Life Assurance Company.
“Lately, I’ve found [that] not many talented [people] are interested to come to Oman. This could be an after-effect of this restrictions. We have witnessed that the interested candidates from outside Oman are not like before,” he said.
“Today we have 76 per cent Omanis in our company. Still we need this expert or the expat manpower from outside the country. Comparatively, there is lesser interest in Oman,” Philip added.
Toheed S, a senior executive of a perfume manufacturing said, “It is very hard to get any experienced candidate even with NOC. My company had a requirement in sales division and for two months I have been searching for the right candidate with NOC but failed to get even one,” he said.
“I even posted advertisement in a local paper and several job portals. It was of no use. And finally my company selected a fresher from outside Oman. Now we need to train him for at least five months by compromising on our sales figures,” he said.