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No blind support to inept local workers in Oman, says businessmen
No blind support to inept local workers in Oman, says businessmen

Muscat: ‘Unconditional’ support to unproductive Omani employees should be withdrawn and employers must have the right to dismiss incompetent workers regardless of their nationality, say members of the business community.

The Labour Law has given the employers the right to dismiss an employee based on legitimate grounds, but some businesspeople say that in practice, it is difficult to do so.

They believe that the attitude towards those national employees who are not working efficiently should be revised and also companies should clarify the requirements of the job to avoid this situation.

Labour Law

Explaining the law, Yousuf Said Al Mutawa, assistant director general of employment at the Ministry of Manpower, told Times of Oman, “The Labour Law gave the employer the absolute right to terminate the worker’s employment contract, after clarifying and proving the reasons which have led to sacking the inefficient and uncommitted worker, provided that the sacking of the Omani or non-Omani worker is not arbitrary, according to Article 40 of the Labour Law.”

However, some businessmen believe that there are certain issues in this regard that need to be addressed.

Eng Amer Al Fadhil, managing director of Competence HR, a human resources consultancy, said, “We should not differentiate in dealing with our employees based on their nationality. So regardless of what national the employee is, there should be something called ‘performance contract’, and if the employee is not performing within this performance contract, they should be dismissed.”

The employee should have the right to go and complain, Al Fadhil said, adding, “The Labour Court or labour office should not blindly take a decision. They should look at what the specifics of the situation are, what the job description is, what the performance contract is, what are the appraisals of the staff if any and what warnings were given, and then make a decision in accordance with the law.”

Unconditional support

Right now there is an ‘unconditional’ support for these employees and that is not ‘right’, noted Al Fadhil, one of the 30 successful candidates for the National CEO Programme.

“You would not even treat your child like that because you would be spoiling him or her,” he said, adding that such an attitude would affect the child’s future.

In addition, the managing director of Competence HR said that currently there is a sense of ‘complacency’ among Omani workers because of this issue.

The mindset of some Omanis right now is that no matter they work or not, they will get paid and cannot be fired, he said.

“If the support is withdrawn, their complacency is removed. When complacency is removed, the Omanis are pressured to perform. Once they are pressured to perform, there will be competition between Omanis and non-Omanis,” Al Fadhil noted.

Sultan Ali Al Busaidi, managing director of the United National Oilfield Services (UNOS), a 100 per cent Omani initiative, believes that employees should be supported on basis of their performance and should not be given the rights that they do not actually have.

“I face a lot of problems in the level of drivers. If you give him much work, next day, he will come and submit his resignation or he will try to get more days off than he is supposed to take,” he said.

Al Busaidi added that according to his own experience, this problem is more prevalent among Omani staff.

Ministry’s support

“It is because they are given the rights which they do not have. So you would see that they are 100 per cent sure whenever they go to the Ministry of Manpower, they will get support,” he said, adding that somebody will be on their side and the company will be ‘squeezed’.

However, he said that dismissal is not the ultimate option and there are some measures that can be taken to improve the situation.

For instance, sometimes the problem arises from the fact that some organisations do not have clear statement of job descriptions and the expected performance, Al Busaidi said, adding that employees should be made well aware of their day-to-day responsibilities.

He added that some organisations just employ Omanis to increase their Omanisation rate and then those employees are left to their own devices, which may ultimately result in unsatisfactory performance and then the talk of dismissal at the company.

Discipline should be brought to the work culture in Oman, said Al Busaidi.

Rules for both sides

Ahmed Al Hooti, a member of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), also argues that the procedure has to be clear for both the employer and the employee.

“There has to be steps and these steps have to be clear,” he said, adding that employers should not be allowed to dismiss employees for inappropriate and insufficient reasons.

For example, if an employee is sick and cannot perform well, it would not be ‘fair’ to say that there is no productivity, Al Hooti said.

Next step

Setting clear rules has to be the next decision taken by the government, the private sector and other authorities concerned, he added.

The OCCI member acknowledged that there certain problems with Omanisation which the authorities are seeking to resolve.

An Omani business owner in the private sector, who asked not to be named, believes that the Ministry of Manpower is ‘spoiling’ some Omani employees and giving them ‘unconditional’ support, which is negatively affecting the quality of work and the country’s economy.

“The situation is like having two children, one of whom is performing well at school and one is not. If the poorly performing student is rejected by the school and you go there to fight to bring him in again, you will be sending this message to your children that ‘No matter you work hard or not, you will have our support’. So the child will ask himself ‘Why should I work hard?’” he said.

“Of course there are Omani employees who are performing well and are working hard, but the ministry is giving a similar message to some Omani employees that ‘No matter you work hard or not, you will get your salary. You employers cannot fire you because we are here to protect you,’” said the businessman.


This wrong mindset has led to poor performance and low productivity, he said, adding that the ministry should change this system.

Employers should have the right to fire a non-productive employee regardless of nationality, he noted.

“No sane person will dismiss an efficient and hard-working employee. Rather, the company will offer him or her a higher salary not to lose that person,” he said.

Right procedure

“Companies should also follow the right procedure and give sufficient warning to the employee who is not performing well. However, even that would not work until the ministry changes its mindset,” he added.

The ministry should understand that this attitude is ‘hurting’ the economy, he said, noting that a change in attitude will bring about quality and competition.

“You should let the competition be there. If you segregate Omanis and non-Omanis and protect the national workforce regardless of the quality of their work, the productivity and quality of work will remain low,” said the businessman.


Tonia Gray, general manager at Competence HR, said, “Whilst the Oman Labour Law does give provision for dismissing employees, it primarily deals with misconduct-related issues.”

“Non-performance could be addressed by following the same procedure (verbal warnings, written warnings etc). However consideration should be given to training or moving the individual to another position more suitable to their abilities and competence as part of the procedure,” she said.

Missing points

“If the poor performance leads to loss of business or reputation, then the current Labour Law covers this but when this is not the case, the Labour Law is lacking in this regard,” Gray noted.

She added, “Even when a national has been dismissed for misconduct following the full procedure, one often finds that the Labour Court overturns the dismissal or imposes heavy fines, which makes companies reluctant to even try.”

“I believe that the Labour Law procedures for terminating an employee need to reviewed. They should include an effective procedure to dismiss for conduct, which if followed will be upheld by the Labour Court, but should also include a Capability Procedure which would enable non-performing employees to be terminated,” Gray said.

Work ethic

Following the procedure and documenting every step would be vital to defend any subsequent case, she said, adding that it should be remembered that there is a difference between an employee who chooses not to do their job (someone who has a poor work ethic and lack of care) as opposed to those who are not capable despite all efforts made by them to achieve the required standards.

“This latter issue needs to be handled under a separate procedure and should not be grouped under disciplinary – the Capability Procedure,” she noted.

Widespread view

The general manager at Competence HR added, “Currently there is a widespread view that nationals cannot be dismissed unless it is for something serious and that ultimately leads to a poor work ethic and some employees feel that they can do what you want as there will be no serious repercussions.”

In addition, she said, “The fault also lies firmly with the company who often do not manage their employees – they will moan that they are not performing, but managers shy away from giving negative feedback to the employee. They also do not set any objectives or give regular reviews – not even an annual performance review.”

Effective management

“Some managers do not have the skills to effectively manage the performance of their teams. Others think that carrying out an annual performance review is all that is required – to be an effective manager, a manager should ‘manage every day’,” said Gray.

Of course, employers can more effectively utilise the recruitment procedure to ensure selection of competent employees and probationary periods to identify those who are unlikely to meet the standards – but this has to be dealt with, the expert noted.

Trained personnel

“Unfortunately, however, many companies do not have the appropriately trained personnel to do this and rely on managers, who are perhaps untrained in handling performance or who are too busy to constantly review the probationer, which results in the three months passing and it seeming to be too late to act,” Gray concluded.


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