In this article, Employment Partner, Gorvinder Pannu, considers a recent decision of the Oman Ministry of Labour setting out the circumstances when a no objection certificate will not be requested from an expatriate who wishes to change employment.

Many expatriates and employers welcomed this year with the news that no objection certificates (NOCs) would no longer be required in respect of expatriates who wished to move employers without having to spend two years outside of Oman between employment in Oman. This was as a result of an amendment to the Executive Regulations of the Foreign Residency Law introduced by ROP Decision No. 157/2020 which abolished the requirement for NOCs from 1 January 2021 as reported in one of our earlier articles.

Notwithstanding the change in law which was widely publicised in the media and hailed by labour unions and other organisations as a positive move to liberate the labour market, increase Oman's rating in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report and be in compliance with the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, a number of expatriates and employers reported that they continued to experience difficulties this year with transferring on to new work permits and employment visas without NOCs.

We have learned that the Ministry of Labour has recently issued a decision (29 July 2021) to its personnel setting out the circumstances in which NOCs should no longer be requested as a pre-condition when dealing with the transfer of expatriate employees from one employer to another. According to the Ministry of Labour's decision, expatriates should be able to transfer employment without production of an NOC in the following cases:

  • upon expiry of the expatriate's work permit/visa provided that the expatriate does not have a current employment contract registered with the Ministry of Labour;
  • upon the expiry of the expatriate's employment contract;
  • upon the expatriate providing evidence that his/her employment contract has been terminated by the employer for a reason other than a disciplinary reason;
  • the issuance of a court ruling ordering the transfer of the expatriate employee to the new employer;
  • the issuance of a court ruling adjudging that the expatriate employee was arbitrarily dismissed; or
  • the issuance of a court ruling adjudging the bankruptcy or dissolution of the employer.

This recent decision from the Ministry of Labour no doubt provides helpful clarification and whilst not allowing complete freedom of movement in employment to expatriates, will allow those who have worked the full length of their work permit/visa, completed fixed or project term contracts, those who have been arbitrarily dismissed or made redundant due to the employer's liquidation to move on to new opportunities within Oman.

It will now be much easier for expatriates to move employment if they fall into any one of the six cases mentioned above. Employers will want to safeguard their confidential information and prevent employees using such information in their next employment. Now is an opportune time for employers to review the adequateness of their non-compete and confidentiality clauses in employment contracts or consider introducing these for new employees or when promoting existing employees.

If you, as an employer, want to learn more about how you can better protect your business from unfair competition and unlawful disclosure of your confidential information, please get in touch with our experienced employment team.