The Times of Oman this week has been quite vocal on the 2 year ban, first running this story that bosses should be more generous giving NOC's and then running this story stating that the OCCI chairman, Mr Said bin Saleh Al Kayoumi, stating that the two year ban is good and protects business' interests.
Well, at least it's fair journalism, showing two sides to the coin.
Getting back to the Chairman of the OCCI (Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry) article, he is quoted as stating: “there are more pros to the decision than the cons” and that the ban “protects employers from the greed of employees”.
And on the face of it, he has a point. If I were to accept a job here, move to the country and then find out that I can do the same job at another company and get a higher salary, or better living conditions, or even a better posting (eg posted to Muscat as opposed to Hafeet) then yes - of course I'd change my job. Given that an employer incurs costs to employ someone and bring them to Oman, then yes that's a somewhat sound argument.
The argument that people can't move jobs because they "come to know trade secrets and know-how" is quite frankly ridiculous. That's called experience and is why people are paid more to do a job when they have more experience. It's why a graduate gets paid less than a person with 25 years experience!
I actually support the 2 year ban in the sense that new-comers to Oman, who have signed a contract with an employer should not just jump ship and change jobs because they found a better deal once they got here. That's their fault for not researching and negotiating for a better package.
My argument with this 2 year ban enforcement is that once people have completed their contract with their employer, why can't they change their job? What hold does an employer have over an employee once their contractual obligations are concluded (eg, two years service are completed)?
Merely stating that not allowing an employee to change their job because they've worked for another company is ludicrous. There's no contractual obligation left between the employee and the employer, and at that time (on completion of an employment contract) the option should be one of three:
1. Remain with the company - negotiate better terms or stay they same, the Oman labour law rewards people who stay with the same employer for more than 3 years by doubling their gratuitiy entitlements.
2. Leave the country for another country - be it returning home, or going to another expatriate role elsewhere, or retirement.
3. Change jobs in the local market.
Let's say you came to Oman, you got your job and were told that your accommodation would be (for example) a villa and that you would have a car. Let's say that you get here and you're given a small apartment and are told you have to to catch the company bus. Let's say you persevere with this and complete your contract, but in your two years you've developed a network of contacts, one of which is offering you a job to come and work with them, and they're offering you much better living conditions and a higher salary.
Now why can you not change jobs? What hold does an employer have over you that should prevent your free movement to change your employer?
It seems that the good chairman thinks that employers own employees ad-infinitum, outside of a contractual term. Oh, if you don't like it, of course you can leave! And walk away from your industry and geography specific experience which you could trade on to better your personal status.
I cannot understand how this law "protects its people and the economy" of Oman. What is being enforced is that expatriates with local knowledge and experience are faced with two choices; stay where you are or leave the country. This treats expatriates as inanimate objects, good for only one job and no capacity to improve or develop over time. In some industries, I'd understand that logic - there's not much skill required to work in a fast food kitchen. But what about the skilled workers? What about the carpenter with 20 years experience that want's to change workshops, or the consultant with 10 years local experience who doesn't like their company and wants to change companies to work on different projects?
If an engineer with 15 years experience in Oman wants to change jobs to a new company because they've been offered a management position there, how is not allowing that person to move protecting the people of Oman or it's economy? That new company won't be able to hire the local knowledge and expertise it needs, and thus might not decide to open up in this country, and therefore a number of jobs that would have been created are not.
This 2 year ban rule needs to be amended, the expat brain drain has begun already and it will continue to do so unless this rule is reviewed. My suggestion is to lock people in to their contracts, but once their contracts are completed, allow employees to move freely because refusing to allow them to exerts control over a fellow human being outside of an agreed to employment contract.
Preventing a suitably qualified worker from taking a job simply because they had previously worked for another employer (and fulfilled their contractual obligations) gives unfair power to an employer over an employee. My argument here is very simple: What rights does an employer have over an employee once it's contract has been fulfilled? Why is the employer allowed to infringe the rights of an employee outside of their contractual relationship?