Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Focus on Employment Law: Probation Periods

Probation periods are a well-known and basic feature of many employment arrangements in Oman. Sometimes, however, the Omani law provisions relating to probation periods can cause problems for companies.

Typically, an employer has the right to terminate an employee during the probation period and, in such circumstances, the employee is only paid for the actual days he or she has worked. Under Article 24 of the Omani Labor Law, the duration of probation cannot be longer than three months for those workers paid monthly, and cannot be longer than one month for employees paid other than monthly.

What is less commonly known is that Article 24 of the Labor Law also requires the giving of seven days notice for the termination in probation to be valid.

Companies that are unaware of this requirement often delay making a decision until too late in the probation period. In the past, Omani courts have had to consider the situation in which written notice was given four days before the end of a three-month probation period. The court held that the notice was invalid as, under the law, the seven-day notice period must expire before the end of the three-month period.

Similarly, in another case, an Omani court decided that a termination was unlawful even though Article 24 had been complied with in full. In that case, the court said it was unfair to terminate someone within the first week of a probation period. The judicial view was that the worker deserved a greater length of time in probation before it could be determined that he was not good enough at the work.

Another problem can arise in the situation in which a probation period is not detailed in the employment contract. There is a tendency for Omani courts to rule that the worker has a right to believe that there is no period of probation if the contract is silent about probation.

Finally, Article 24 also states that no employee can be subjected to more than one probationary period by the same employer. Therefore, an additional probation period cannot be imposed upon renewal of an employee’s employment contract or upon the employee’s change in position or status within the company.