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Changes in compliance are continuous and occurring around the globe. At Replicon, our goal is to make sure you’re never a step behind. Over the past twelve months, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made unprecedented moves to open its economy to foreign investment and to adopt new social norms. In July of 2018, women were lawfully permitted to drive across the country. In this context, the introduction of a new anti-harassment law is designed to ensure individual autonomy and security. Read on as we cover some of the notable changes in detail.
Saudi Arabia: Anti-harassment Law
Saudi Arabia Cabinet Decision No. 488/1439 defines ‘harassment’ as verbal, physical, or sexual intimation by one individual against another in any form and in any manner (including internet).
The purpose of the new law is to streamline the principles of Sharia Law which protect individuals honor and respect in a highly confidential way.
The new law was published in the Legal Gazette on 24 Ramadan 1439 H, equivalent to June 8, 2018. Decision 488 dated 14/9/1439H, comes into force on the day of its publication in the Official Gazette.
The new Law covers everyone – male, female, minors, and people with special abilities. It’s a duty of an individual who has suffered or witnessed harassment to report the act of violation.
In addition to any other potential penalty or punishment under general Islamic Sharia principles (which could include public lashing) or any other harsher punishment under other laws, penalties for breach of the law are:
- 2-year prison sentence and/or a fine of SAR 100,000;
- 5-year prison sentence and/or a fine of SAR 300,000 if the victim of the harassment is a child, a person of special needs, if the perpetrator was in a position of power or influence over the victim, if the harassment occurs at a place of work, education or child care, if the victim and the perpetrator are of the same sex, if the victim was sleeping or unconscious, or if the harassment occurs at a time of crisis, accident, or disaster.
- Aiding or assisting harassment will be liable to the same punishment as if he or she had been the perpetrator of the harassment.
- Making a false complaint of harassment is also liable to the same punishment as if they had perpetrated the harassment.
- Initiating harassment will be liable to half the potential penalty imposed on the actual perpetrator of the harassment.
Any individuals suffering or witnessing alleged harassment are under a duty to report the allegations. Public authorities are also able to raise complaints in the public interest. All organizations within an employment context, whether government or non-governmental, are under an obligation to take steps to prevent harassment occurring.
Special Obligations on Employers under the Law
In an employment context, employers are under an express obligation to:
- Put in place an internal complaints mechanism and procedure;
- Put in place procedures to investigate complaints validity as well as ensure their confidentiality;
- Take remedial action about any breaches of these policies and the obligations under this law on employers; and
Not seek to prevent or replace (e.g. through trying to replace the criminal process under the law with an internal process) a victim’s right to raise a complaint to the authorities regarding any harassment.
Employers, Government, and Non-Government authorities will now need to take steps to comply with the new law. Within an employment context, as well as taking the steps specified by the new law, employers should now also do the following:
- Train staff on their complaints process and the provisions of the new law, placing it within the context of workplace culture and codes of conduct;
- Remind staff of the provisions of the Model Work Regulations which require all employees to behave appropriately in the workplace;
- Consider whether other workplace policies need to be revised or highlighted for example dress codes, social media policies or confidentiality procedures; and
- Consider whistleblowing policies and procedures given the reporting duties under the Law as well as within the context of an increasing culture of compliance.
Authored by Sajid Mir
Edited by Jon Burns