Following are the legal queries Times of Oman received. Answers provided in association with Khalifa Al Hinai Legal Consultants
I am an expatriate employee working for a Dubai based company in Oman. Our company staff have been receiving medical benefits and return tickets to their home town for annual vacations. Two months ago, we received a circular from the company informing that the medical benefits and tickets have been withdrawn and hereafter no expatriate employee would be entitled to such benefits. Our right to medical benefits and ticket is mentioned in our contracts. Is the company's decision legally correct?
Your company's decision is absolutely not correct. Tickets for travel to home country during periodic intervals and right to medical facilities is established by law and practices and no employer has the right to dilute such specific and clear legal provisions. Article (62) of the Labour Law, promulgated by Royal Decree 35/2003 (as amended) mandates that "An employee must take leave of not less than two weeks once every two years."
Though the law does not specify that the employee should be provided a round trip ticket to go to his home country and return, inferences can be drawn that when an employee, who is a foreigner takes leave once in two years or any other agreed period, he/she would be naturally inclined to visit his/her home country for personal needs and due to domestic compulsions.
Similarly, Article (33) of the Oman Labour Law reads: "The employer shall provide his employees with access to medical facilities in the establishment and he shall, if the number of employees is … more than 100, employ a qualified medical aid and assign a doctor to visit and treat them… The employer shall provide the employees with medicines required for the treatment, all of which must be free of charge…"
The practice in Oman is that all employees are entitled to free medical treatment in Oman except for dental ailments and ophthalmic treatments and maternity costs.
In your case, you mentioned that you have a prevailing contract wherein your right to ticket and medical benefits is mentioned. If the employer arbitrarily stops such facilities, the employer may be accused of deviating from the terms of the employment contract and in breach of the contractual provisions.
If your company has a grievance redressal mechanism, you may address this issue through that system and wait for the outcome, failing which you may approach the Ministry of Manpower to get your rights reinstated with retrospective effect.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this column are for general guidance purposes only. They are based on facts presented to us and are not substituted for expert legal advice. Readers are advised to seek legal assistance for specific legal issues. Times of Oman and Khalifa Al Hinai Advocates & Legal Consultancy do not assume any responsibility towards anyone on this matter.