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Working in Oman

While foreign employees are common and well-treated in Oman, their status is tightly regulated by the government. For many years, Oman´s poor infrastructure and weak education system translated to a shortage of qualified workers. Since 1970, as the quality of life has improved, the Omani government has made a distinct effort to regulate the influx of foreign employees, in hopes that it can work toward relative economic self-sufficiency. Though you are technically allowed to search for jobs in Oman while on a tourist visa, you are better off arriving with employment secured. The further in advance you prepare your permit applications (and the more influence your employer wields with the government), the better chance you have of securing a work visa and permit.

One of the main differences about working in Oman as opposed to your country of origin is that you need to be sponsored by an employer, which often leaves some people feeling tied or uncomfortably obligated to their employer. If you leave the company your current visa will be cancelled and you have to go through the hassle of getting a new residency permit (for you and your family, if they are on your sponsorship).

Accepting an expatriate posting can have its pitfalls, so before you sign your contract pay special attention to things like probation periods, accommodation, annual leave, travel entitlements, medical and dental cover, notice periods and repatriation entitlements.

Once you accept your offer, you will be asked to sign both an English and an Arabic copy of your contract. The Arabic copy is the one that will be referred to in any legal dispute between you and your employer, so if you have any doubts about the integrity of the company, ask a lawyer or Arabic-speaking friend to look through it. However, if there was ever a legal dispute, the court would want to know why there was any discrepancy between the English and Arabic versions in the first place.

It is worth reading through a copy of the Oman labour law before you sign your contract. The contract takes precedence over the labour law, so if your contract reads differently from the labour law and you have signed it, then the terms of the contract are binding (not the law).

In addition to their salary, foreign employees are awarded an ‘indemnity’ at the end of the contract period. Indemnities are end-of-contract bonuses which are required by law to be paid to expatriate employees as monetary ‘thank-yous’ for being of service to the state. They are also sometimes known as ‘end of service benefits.´ Indemnities usually amount to 15 (in some cases 20) days of pay per year of employment for the first three years, and a month’s salary per year of employment after that.

In some cases, your salary pay may be delayed. This is common in Arab companies, since many of them experience occasional cash flow problems and banking delays.

The working week in Oman tends to vary between 40 and 48 hours, depending on company policy. Office hours are usually from 8.30 or 9.00 am to 5.30 or 6.00 pm. There are no differences in time-keeping between summer and winter. In the month of Ramadan, the working day is sometimes reduced to six hours. In theory, the reduced hours should apply to all employees, but many companies only grant the reduced hours to their Muslim employees, leaving their foreign workers to work standard hours.

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