Saudi officials have announced a five-day visit to Sri Lanka in a bid to overcome "difficulties" related to the recruitment of domestic workers from the south Asian country.
The Gulf kingdom's National Committee of Recruitment of the Council of Saudi Chambers said in comments reported by Saudi Press Agency that discussions will focus on the labour issue, without giving any further details.
Last year, Sri Lanka said it would gradually stop allowing women going to Saudi Arabia to be housemaids after a Sri Lankan was executed in the country over the death of an infant in her care.
The Indian Ocean island nation recalled its envoy to Saudi Arabia in response to the beheading in January 2013 of Rizana Nafeek, who was sentenced to death in 2007 accused of killing her employer's daughter while she was bottle-feeding.
But earlier this year, Saudi Arabia said it was eying new labour agreements covering domestic workers from six countries including Sri Lanka in the next phase of the kingdom’s historic workplace relations reforms.
More than half-a-million foreign workers fled their employers in Saudi Arabia last year, according to the Ministry of Labour.
The expats, mostly low-paid workers such as maids, drivers and labourers, were reported as runaways by their employers.
Disputes between employers and employees are common in the kingdom, where expats make up about one-third of the entire population of 28 million and workers have few rights compared to international standards.
Several labour exporting nations have at times banned their citizens from working in the kingdom over disputes relating to workers’ rights.
Last year, it was reported that the kingdom had announced new rules to protect the rights of domestic helpers, including that employers pay domestic helpers the agreed monthly salary without delay and give them a day off each week.
Employers are also required to provide domestic helpers with suitable accommodation, as well as granting them time to rest for at least nine hours each day, local media reported.
Under the new guidelines, workers are entitled to paid sick leave and a one-month paid vacation after putting in two years of work as well as end of service compensation equal to one month’s salary after four years.
The employer has no right to compel domestic helpers to do a job that does not come under the purview of the labor contract. The regulations also prevent the employer from forcing the worker to do any jobs that are harmful to his/her health.
Penalties included a one-year recruitment ban or SR2,000 ($533.23) fine or both, with repeat offenders facing a SR5,000 fine and three-year to permanent recruitment ban.