General Practice in Saudi Arabia: In most of the cases, employment contract offered to expatriates living in Saudi Arabia is in the Arabic language even if an expatriate is unable to understand it. He signs it at a time when he does not understand anything in it. As a result of which, he may undertake responsibility in writing without even knowing about it. We shall be discussing the legality of such contract in the below lines. In some cases, the employment contract offered to expatriates is in two languages i.e. Arabic and English. The content of the contract is mentioned in the Arabic language which expatriate does not understand as well as in the English language which he understands. Now the employee is asked to sign the contract. Employee signs it by reading whatever is written in English language and agrees upon the duties and benefits given to him.
Legality of Arabic Language Contract: The employee should always look for some trustworthy person to translate the contract in a language he understands. He may take a copy of the contract and go to some professional translator to translate it. If an employee does not do this and undertakes any responsibility unknowingly, he will be solely responsible for that responsibility. Saudi Labor Law does not give him any relief for not knowing the fact.
Legality of English / Arabic (Bi-Lingual) Employment Contract
As stated above, your contract is written in two languages let’s suppose English and Arabic and you sign on it. In the case of any disagreement between the Arabic and English content, Arabic content will prevail. It means that even if you have read your contract in detail in English language but it contains something in the Arabic language which does not comply with what is written in the English language, you cannot challenge it in the court. An employer can easily play with you by including the clauses in the Arabic language (which you don’t understand) and skipping them in English translation.
Article 9 of the Saudi Labor Law clearly states that “Arabic shall be the language used for data, records, files, work contracts and the like as provided for in this Law or in any decision issued in implementation of its provisions as well as the instructions issued by the employer to his workers. If the employer uses a foreign language besides Arabic in any of the mentioned cases, the Arabic text shall prevail”
What to Do in such Case?
By adopting following procedures, you can avoid the problems mentioned above.
You should ask for only an English language contract from the employer.
If the contract is bi-lingual, there should be two spaces for accepting the contract (one under Arabic language and second under the English language). You should sign in the space under the English Language.
You can also ask some trustworthy person to translate the Arabic language to understand its meaning.
Important Note: Having an employment contract is one of the rights of employees living in Saudi Arabia under Saudi Labor Law. If an employee does not provide a contract to the employee, he is actually violating the Saudi Labor Law. In the case of absence of a contract, general rules and guidelines of Saudi Labor Law stating the rights of expatriates will be applicable.