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Loopholes in workers’ rights law to be reviewed

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Aug 09,2018 - Last updated at Aug 09,2018

AMMAN —  The Social Security Law must be reviewed in order to match the flexible working hours by-law of 2017 according to a report issued by the Karak Castle for Consultations and Training on Monday, which warned of “the conflict arising between both regulations, which forces many employees out of the social security umbrella the moment they sign a flexible working hours contract”. 

Launched under the patronage of Labour Minister Samir Murad and conducted in cooperation with the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) office in Amman, the report considered that “the flexible working hours system and its instructions failed to live up to the expectations of those concerned with it”, proposing several amendments that “meet ambition and achieve the intended objective of the regulation”.

Endorsed by Royal Decree in March 2017, the flexible working hours by-law of 2017 aims at boosting the economic participation of various segments of society, especially working women, by opening up new and innovative opportunities in the workplace, according to an infographic published by the prime minister’s office. 

The by-law allows reduced working hours if the nature of the work allows it and dividing weekly working hours in a manner that is compatible with the needs of the workers, provided they are not less than the usual working hours. 

Options also include dividing weekly working hours over fewer days and dividing annual working days over certain months, without exceeding limits set by the law, in addition to allowing workers to finish their work without being physically present in the workplace.

"This is a very positive step and we are glad they took most of our recommendations into consideration, but there is still work to be done," International Labour Organisation Gender Consultant Reem Aslan told The Jordan Times in a recent interview, explaining that right now, "the challenge is to educate the employers on the regulations and instructions to apply the flexible working hours at the workplace".

In a similar vein, Director of the Karak Castle Centre Esraa Mahadin said that “the approval of the by-law was a great step towards the inclusion of women and youth in the labour market, but many amendments must be made in order to make it equal for all parties”. 

In this regard, Mahadin commented that “the provisions of the Social Security Law make it easy for employees to fall out of the social security umbrella due to the number of working hours and its distribution”, warning that “in some cases, employers take advantage of this situation and hire more workers in a flexible working hours regime in order to avoid social security costs”.

“Luckily, the Social Security Corporation (SSC) heard our demands and invited us to conduct a workshop last week in order to expose our points with high level employees,” Mahadin continued, noting that SSC representatives expressed their commitment to work on the recommendations and review the law. 

Concerning the rest of the recommendations to the by-law on flexible working hours, the report called for amendments aimed at eliminating  the requirement of completing three years in the institution before requesting to apply for transfer to flexible work arrangements, stressing that “as this regulation does not apply to new employees hired through a flexible contract, this item should not affect workers already engaged with the company either”. 

In addition, the study demanded the priority be given to the employee when transferring from a fixed contract to  a flexible working hours contract, requesting a legal justification to the employer in the event of refusal to the contract change. 

Asked about the response received so far, Mahadin told The Jordan Times that several entities have contacted the organisation in order to follow up with the recommendations since the launching of the report.

“We have to put this system [flexible work arrangements] under the spotlight,” she stressed, noting that “although the by-law was approved over a year-and-a-half ago, only a few entities have implemented the system — which proves the need to raise awareness on this matter”. 

In this regard, FES Programme Manager in Jordan Amal Abu Jiries stressed the need to “activate the communication between the Ministry of Labour and the SSC in order to study the impact of the flexible work arrangements on the worker's right to social security so that the hours, days and wages are calculated in a way that does not affect the worker's right and his social security entitlements due to the interruption of employment”.

“It is also crucial to review the Labour Law to clearly include the flexible work regulation in its articles,” she added, noting that its definition is not sufficient.

In addition, Abu Jiries noted the need to conduct awareness-raising sessions for organisations, companies and their employees on the contents of the flexible work regulation,  and to hold consultative meetings with employers to identify barriers that prevent them from abiding by regulation.

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