Bahrain: A NEW “flexible work permit” will soon be introduced that will allow expatriates to work for multiple employers, it has been revealed.
However, the initiative is strictly aimed at covering more than 10,000 illegal workers who have been allegedly exploited or faced abuse at the hands of their bosses and overstayed.
It will not cover runaway workers and those involved in court cases related to serious
The Labour and Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) is expected to announced the new measure in the coming months, according to Labour and Social Development Minister and LMRA chairman Jameel Humaidan.
“We are currently streamlining our systems before starting to accept applications for the flexible work permit,” he said.
“The new permit will help workers – who have faced abuse in the past – to work legally in Bahrain with a number of employers.”
Mr Humaidan was speaking on the sidelines of a forum on the labour market held at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) headquarters in Sanabis.
“A two-year flexible work permit will cost the worker BD30 per month in addition to a one-time fee of BD200 at the time of submitting the application.
“However, the new permit does not cover runaway workers.”
Under the scheme, ‘non-regular workers’ can take up jobs on a temporary basis with an employer or an individual in all sectors except those that require professional licences like nursing, engineering, etc.
The Cabinet last month endorsed the new scheme as a legal alternative to employing illegal workers.
Cabinet secretary-general Dr Yasser Al Nasser said the initiative aimed to ensure economic flexibility and enable the private sector to employ workers to carry out temporary and casual work instead of using the services of illegal workers.
The scheme also aims to end the parallel shadow market where free visa workers are employed on low wages and compete with other businesses who employ workers after paying all the visa charges.
Labour Affairs Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary said there were about 10,000 illegal workers that will be integrated into the labour market through the new scheme.
“The applicant for the flexible work permit will be his own sponsor and is entitled to work for two years with different employers,” said Mr Al Dossary.
“In case the employers want to recruit the person on a full-time basis then we can assist the companies.”
Once the formalities are complete, the applicants will be issued a document which they have to show to LMRA inspectors during site visits.
“This document will state that the worker has a valid flexible work permit and can work with the employer without being caught and penalised.”
Expatriates who are employed under contract cannot be covered under the scheme, said Mr Al Dossary.
The illegal workers are those who enter Bahrain on legitimate work permits but stay back surviving on casual employment.
LMRA figures last year showed that 31,894 workers acquired legitimate work while 10,125 left Bahrain during the six-month general amnesty that ended in December.
It was estimated last year that there were 60,000 illegal residents in Bahrain.
One of the recommendations of a joint study about free visa workers conducted by the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies and BCCI last year was for legitimate businesses in Bahrain to sponsor foreign workers and rent their services on a temporary basis.
Other suggestions included increasing incentives for voluntary departure of illegal residents after the expiry of their visas by withholding their indemnity and other benefits which the worker can only receive in their home country.