Bahrain’s Shura Council has given its approval to a new labour law allowing companies to sack expat employees ahead of Bahrainis if the business faces financial difficulties or undergoes restructuring. Gulf daily News reported, that the labour law amendment was initially shot down by the council back in January, when it favoured advice from the Labour Ministry that enacting such a law would be considered in contravention of the International Labour Organisation’s anti-discrimination guidelines.
In a change of opinion, however, council members approved the proposed amendment, which must now be ratified by King Hamad before it becomes law. The council’s public utilities and environment affairs committee chairperson Faoud Al Haji said jobs in the kingdom “should be for Bahrainis and only Bahrainis”.
“Where Bahrainis are not found or they don’t want to work, it should only then be handed over to expatriates,” he said.
There were concerns raised about how the law would be implemented, in the absence of any guidance as to how assessments would be carried out.
Dr. Jehad Al Fadhel, council services committee chairperson who recommended the amendment, said the decision was left with employers to do what’s best for the company. “Bahrainis come first and they will continue to come first, but we are looking for the best for the establishment too, which is why we left the choice to the employer,” she said.
“We see this amendment’s introduction into law as a guarantee that Bahrainis will not be dismissed in bulk, while expatriates continue to work in the case of downsizing or partial closure.”
Labour Ministry assistant under-secretary for labour Mohammed Al Ansari said the new law could lead to unfair dismissal claims and possible compensation payments should a dispute go to court.
“The ministry intervenes to solve contract termination disputes, but if it goes to court then a specialist is assigned by the judge to decide whether it is unfair dismissal or not,” he said.
“Now, with this new amendment to the law, it will mean that if employers sack Bahrainis before expatriates, this will be considered unfair dismissal, and accordingly huge compensation payments will have to be made.”