You’ve probably heard about the runaway employees in Saudi-Arabia. Most of these workers are Asian so called “cheap labor” that work as maids or drivers. They run away for various reasons but one of the biggest temptations for them is to work as “freelancer” ie, illegally and earn more. Illegals are a huge problem in the Kingdom and they cause harm to society in many ways. The recruiter companies and employers suffer financially from this phenomenon as well. There is lots of money involved in obtaining visas and in the process of bringing them into Saudi Arabia in the first place.
For example, to bring in a maid or a driver to KSA, the employer must pay recruitment company and agency fees and visa charges from 15000-20,000 SAR. If the employee “escapes”, in other words leaves the employer and does a disappearing act, the employer will get no compensation, in fact, the employer will get fined up to 100,000 sr, unless they report said employee as “runaway” to the Ministry. The runaway worker will be deported, if caught.
A lesser known and much less common but real phenomenon are the western runaway employees. I have witnessed several such cases where employees made a disappearing act on their employer. All cases were western medical staff, men and women.
The hospital pays even more to recruit the highly sought after western employees, around 20,000 SAR each. It is naturally in their best interest to keep the employees satisfied and working within the company for at least their one year contract which is the most common for nurses to sign on for.
So what happens, why do the employees run away? And where to?
Unlike the Asian runaways that always stay in the country working in the blackmarket, their western partners in crime run back to their home countries.
The reasons are numerous, but most commonly it’s the easiest way out for the employee to just disappear if they are not liking life in Saudi-Arabia. Resigning and the final exit process takes months and many stressful hours of going from one office to another, gathering signatures, stamps and all sorts of paperwork before the employee is allowed to leave the Kingdom. By completing the final exit process the employee receives their annual or end of contract bonus as well.
Leaving without a trace might be easier for the employee, but morally I would say it is WRONG.
Like I mentioned, the employer pays and does a great deal of work to recruit a western worker. The process of the final exit is there for a reason, although it could be done more swiftly without all the bureaucratic nonsense, the employee has still signed a contract and running away is breaking that contract. I don’t see these very people violating their employment contacts in their home countries, so where does this disrespect stem from?
Personally I never understood why those people chose to escape, rather than to just honestly resign and leave the Kingdom with dignity and not as a refugee of some sort. In most cases the employee had only a few months to go after the contact would have ended in any case. So why not just hang in there for a little but longer? I’m such a tough cookie myself that I would say you can even stand on your head for two months, rather than make a fool out of yourself or to be dishonest.
Most of the runaways I knew hated life and work in the Kingdom, or could not cope at all and one got engaged and ran away to get married. The employees left for their annual leave with an exit re-entry visa and never returned. They packed up as much of their stuff as they could and in fear of getting caught did not tell anyone of their plans until they were outside the Kingdom. Once home they called the employer and their friends that they will never return. This leaves the employer in trouble and also the friends in a situation where they might feel betrayed and also forced to pack the rest of the belongings and send it over to the escapee.
Needless to say the runaway would have a hard time trying to find employment again in Saudi-Arabia, but I doubt it has a big impact on their future employment in their home countries.
What do you think of these runaway employees? Are they doing the right thing? Is it ok to break the contract in a country they will most likely never return to? Is it acceptable for them to leave without notifying the employer if they feel very stressed out?
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