The New Law, which overhauls Royal decree 35/2003, was much anticipated, as it has been in discussion for over 20 years. The changes aim to align the Omani labor market with international best practices.
Leave entitlements currently apply only to Omani nationals but will be expanded to expatriates and other foreign nationals working in Oman in July 2024. The most relevant changes introduced by the New Law are as follows:
Male employees are now entitled to seven calendar days of employer-paid paternity leave which may be taken upon the live birth of a child. Leave must be taken within 98 days after the birth of the child.
Unpaid childcare leave for female employees
The New Law introduces one year of unpaid childcare leave for female employees. This leave may be taken at the end of the maternity leave.
Female employees returning to work from maternity leave are now entitled to one hour per day of paid nursing break for a period of one year from the end of their maternity leave.
The New Law introduces a paid caregiver leave of up to 15 days per year to enable Omani nationals to accompany close family members (including, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, or grandchildren). It is unclear whether the new caregiver leave will apply only to accompany close family members or more broadly to care for them as well.
The New Law increases sick leave entitlements from 10 weeks per year to 182 days per year. Sick leave is paid by the employer as follows:
- Day one to day 21 are fully paid
- Day 22 to day 35 are paid at 75% of the employee’s gross salary
- Day 36 to day 70 are paid at 50% of the employee gross salary
- Day 71 to day 182 are paid at 35% of the employee gross salary
Paid maternity leave is increased from 50 calendar days to 98 calendar days, 14 of which may be taken prior to childbirth. The new law also expands the number of times such leave may be used from once to unlimited. In addition, the one-year qualifying service to enjoy such leave has been lifted. Maternity leave currently applies only to Omani nationals, but new legislation expected to enter into effect in 2024, will expand eligibility to foreign workers (please see Lockton Compliance Alert).
The New Law maintains the same leave entitlement of three business days but expands the number of times it may be used from once to unlimited.
While the annual leave entitlement of 30 days per year after six months of service remains unchanged, employees will now be able to carry forward up to 30 vacation days to the following year.
Working hours and remote work
The maximum working hours was decreased from nine hours per day to eight hours per day, with a one-hour break (increased from a 30-minute break under previous labor law) after 6 hours of continuous work.
In addition, the New Law allows employees and employers to agree on remote-working arrangements. Implementing regulations are expected to provide more details on a remote-working framework.
The New Law introduces paid bereavement leave as follows:
- 10 calendar days of paid leave in case of the death of an employee’s wife or child
- 14 calendar days of paid leave for the death of the husband of a non-Muslim female employee.
The following existing bereavement leave entitlements remain unchanged:
- Three days off for the death of an employee’s parent, grandparent, or sibling
- Two days off for the death of an employee’s aunt or uncle
- 130 days off for the death of the husband of a Muslim female employee
The six calendar days of emergency leave that employees were entitled to previously has been replaced by an unpaid “special leave.” Employees are now entitled to request a special leave without pay for an unlimited period of time subject to the employer’s consent. If such leave is granted by the employer, employees will be required to pay statutory social security contributions (theirs, the government’s, and the employer’s, if any) for the entire duration of their unpaid leave.
The New Law aims to promote the employment of Omani nationals by enabling employers to terminate non-Omani employees for the purpose of replacing them with Omani nationals. A list of the professions for which Omani nationals will be eligible to replace foreign workers will be released in the coming months by the Ministry of Labor.
Companies with 25 or more employees will be required to employ and retain Omani nationals. The implementing regulations will provide a minimum number of Omani nationals that need to be employed by businesses based in Oman depending on their workforce.
Companies with 40 or more employees will also be required to hire professionally qualified Omani nationals with disabilities. The number of such employees is also expected to be communicated by the Ministry of Labor.
In addition, the New Law requires companies to develop and implement a plan explaining the selection and training processes of Omani nationals for leadership positions. Implementing regulations are expected to provide more details on this.
Employers should review the changes and monitor the implementation timeline of the New Law and the publication of the implementing regulations to ensure timely compliance. Pending further clarification by the implementing regulations, employers should start preparing for the implementation of the changes by reviewing and amending their HR internal policies and practices, employment agreements, and family-related benefits and policies, as needed. Employers should also be aware that the Omani government will be implementing changes in the coming years under Royal Decree No. 52/2023, which introduces modifications to Oman’s social security system. The changes include the extension of leave entitlements (including sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave etc.) to foreign workers in Oman. The changes brought by Royal Decree No. 52/2023 are covered in Lockton Compliance Alert.