AMMAN — The Ministry of Labour on Monday opened a 60-day grace period for guest workers in the Kingdom who need to rectify their legal status.

During the grace period, the ministry will pause its inspection campaign to hunt down illegal workers, which began last February, Labour Ministry Spokesperson Haitham Khasawneh said.

Khasawneh noted that the decision was approved by the government last week following an agreement made during the meetings of the joint Jordanian-Egyptian higher committee, spearheaded by the two countries’ prime ministers, but would apply to workers of all nationalities.

According to previous government statements, as many as one million foreign labourers may be working in the Kingdom illegally, having either changed their workplaces without notifying the authorities or let their work permits expire.

The official said the grace period would allow workers who arrived in Jordan legally but whose contracts have expired to find new employers and get new work permits without paying the usual fines, along with those who have already changed jobs without permission from the authorities, and those who have fled their employers and are hiding from the authorities.

“However, some professions, which are only reserved for Jordanians, will remain closed to foreign workers,” Khasawneh stressed.

The grace period gives foreign workers in these professions a chance to change jobs, but he warned these workers that if they do not do so, they will be deported if the ministry catches them once the inspections resume in March.

Labourers who have had deportation orders issued against them but not executed can also get new jobs and work permits during the grace period, while workers who wish to return to their home countries will be allowed to do so without paying fines or receiving special approval from the ministry.

Khasawneh added that the ministry will halt the guest worker recruitment process during the grace period.

Meanwhile, he said, Labour Minister Nidal Katamine has struck an agreement with representatives from the garment sector to increase the number of Jordanian workers in the sector from 20 to 25 per cent of the workforce, which is dominated by foreigners.

The agreement is part of the government’s efforts to create more jobs for Jordanians and to address the unemployment rate, which rose to 12.5 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2012.