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Family friendly policies and the Omani Labour Law: What it entails for women employees in Oman

Shweta Belwal (Faculty of Business, Sohar University, Sohar, Oman)
Rakesh Belwal (Faculty of Business, Sohar University, Sohar, Oman) (Business School, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Suhaila Ebrahim Al-Hashemi (College of Economics and Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 20 December 2019

Issue publication date: 17 January 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to take cognisance of the work–life balance (WLB) challenges facing working women in Oman, make a review of the family-friendly policies (FFPs), related provisions in labour laws of various nations, and identify and suggest some FFP-based solutions for attracting women to private sector jobs.

Design/methodology/approach

Initially, desk research was used to review the labour laws of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and some pioneering countries known for their workplace policies using the major electronic databases and official websites. An exploratory approach was used to understand the lived experience of participants using 46 in-depth interviews. The data were analysed and the findings were explained and contextualised in terms of the Arab culture, wider social processes and consequences related to WLB.

Findings

The interviews revealed that the majority of women in the private sector are not fully aware of the labour laws and FFPs, and are not satisfied with the existing policies, as they do not provide the right WLB. Women in the private sector demand flexible working hours, privacy at work, reduced work hours and certain other benefits akin to the government sector. Omani Labour Law needs a review of FFPs in line with the best global practices and Oman’s diversification initiatives. The provision, awareness and implementation of FFPs in the workplace are necessary to attract Omani women to private sector jobs.

Research limitations/implications

This research focusses on Oman in particular and GCC countries in general in its coverage of Omani women workers. The outcomes would be important for the specific segment but would have limited potential to generalise.

Practical implications

The study of WLB and FFPs is of interest for both academia and industry globally. In its strategic vision 2040, Oman aims to encourage, support and develop the private sector to drive the national economy. To retain and boost the socio-economic development in the post-oil economy, the success of the private sector will depend on the participation of the Omani workforce. The role of working Omani women will be pivotal, for they form a substantial part of the skilled human resources inventory.

Social implications

Women working in Oman are influenced by labour laws, organisational culture, traditional attitudes and societal values and influences. The voices of women working in the private sector indicate a great need to create awareness of existing policies, ensure their compliance and devise additional workplace policies to enable women to contribute to the labour market.

Originality/value

There is a dearth of studies examining work policies and employment of women in the context of Oman in particular and the GCC Countries in general. Even in the extant literature, the sectoral imbalance between the government and private sector has not been explored from the perspective of WLB and FFPs. This study presents a unique approach and findings in this regard.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the Open Research Grant No. ORG/EHR/15/002 from the Research Council (TRC) of Oman, which was instrumental in conducting this research work. We also acknowledge Professor Shirley Dex, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Education, University College London, the United Kingdom for her guidance contributing to this publication.

Citation

Belwal, S., Belwal, R. and Al-Hashemi, S.E. (2020), "Family friendly policies and the Omani Labour Law: What it entails for women employees in Oman", Employee Relations, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 315-348. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-09-2018-0245

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited