The Saudi authorities have announced new labour regulations to protect workers' rights by bringing employers under strict rules including financial penalty.
Around 1.5 million Bangladeshis are currently working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They will also be benefited when the new regulations are in place.
According to the new regulations, employers who keep workers' passports and fail to pay their wages will face a fine of Saudi Riyal (SR) 2,000, reported the Saudi Gazette quoting the Saudi labour ministry on Thursday.
There are allegations that many employers hold on to workers' passports and force them to work outside contractual terms. They sack workers who protest against it and send them home without paying their salary.
Such employers will now be fined SR 15,000 for forcing workers to perform tasks not specified in the contract or for making them bear expenses the employer is liable to pay.
The new regulations will fine employers SR 5,000 for not giving copies of contracts to the workers.
The rules also prohibit companies from delaying salary payment, forcing extra working hours without pay or making workers work during official weekends or holidays.
Violation also includes forcing workers to work in the heat or in bad weather without precautions. Ignoring safety measures and health standards will bring a fine of SR 25,000.
Companies will be fined SR 50,000 for selling visas to expatriates and SR 45,000 for employing an expatriate without a licence.
The Saudi labour ministry will also fine unlicensed recruitment offices between SR 10,000 and SR 20,000. Recruitment companies will also be fined the same amount if they do not register their services to the ministry.
Meanwhile, summary courts in Jeddah and Makkah have charged 24 people with human trafficking and each of them was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, 1,000 lashes and fines ranging between SR 20,000 and SR 100,000.
A local Saudi daily reports that 10 of the accused -- nine expatriates and a Saudi -- were from Jeddah and the rest were from Makkah.
The courts last year charged the defendants with human trafficking after 14 housemaids had accused them of forcing them into prostitution and other illegal work.
Residents had earlier informed police that a number of expatriate women living in houses in their neighbourhoods were engaged in illegal activities.
The police later rounded them up after closely monitoring the houses and handed them over to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution prior to sending them to courts.
The women told the courts that some men promised to find them jobs with Saudi families but forced them into prostitution, drug smuggling and other illegal jobs instead.
Golam Moshi, Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia, welcomed the new regulations and said these will save the Bangladeshis from cheating and exploitation by agencies and employers.
“The most epoch-making point is that these new regulations will stop trading with visas. This is a very serious problem for the Bangladeshis because they have to spend at least Tk 5 or 10 lakh to get a work visa in Saudi Arabia. Now, this practice will be stopped,” he told BBC Bengali Service yesterday.
Hailing the Saudi government's move, Sheepa Hafiza, director of gender, justice and migration at Brac, however, said the benefits will depend on the implementation and regular monitoring of these new regulations.