Monday, December 5, 2016

Employment of Juveniles in the Sultanate of Oman

The law of juvenile employment is one which is developing in Oman, and as such this article will first look at the international conventions which Oman has signed up to, before analysing the available domestic legislation and its enforcement which is significant in ensuring the application of available protections and securing the rule of law.

The International Labour Organisation standard

Although there is no universally agreed definition for the term “exploitative child labour,” under the International Labour Organisation (“ILO”) Convention 138 of 1973, the minimum age of employment or work in any occupation is “not to be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and in any case should not be less than the age of 15.” This convention, however, gave the freedom to states with insufficiently developed economies and educational facilities to specify a minimum legal working age of 14. Additionally, Convention 138 specified that national regulations may permit the employment of persons 13 to 15 years of age on light work. Such light work may include work in a family business, on a family farm, after school, and in legitimate apprenticeship opportunities. The government of Oman ratified ILO Convention 138 on July 21, 2005 to ensure the minimum protection of juvenile workers.

Omani law

The Oman Labour Law promulgated through Royal Decree 11/2003 (the “Labour Law”) supplemented these existing provisions. The Labour Law establishes, by virtue of Article 75, that the minimum age for employment is 15 years, while minors between the ages 15 to 18 years are not permitted to work between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Minors are also prohibited from working overtime or in certain hazardous occupations. The list of jobs that juvenile workers are permitted to do is attached to Ministerial Decision 217/2016, and broadly includes salesman roles. However, there are no specific descriptions of the tasks that can be undertaken by juveniles in these occupations. Further, employers are prohibited from requiring minors to work on official days of rest or official holidays or for more than six hours per day according to Article 76 of the Labour Law. Workplaces that employ minors are required to post certain items for display, including: a copy of the rules regulating the employment of children; an updated log with the names of minors employed in the workplace with their ages and dates of employment; and a work schedule showing work hours, rest periods, and weekly holidays.

As an addition to the Labour Law, Ministerial Decision 217/2016, Article 1 provides that employers must obtain written approval from the person responsible for the juvenile’s care and upbringing. Furthermore, because juveniles compared to adults are developing physically and those children seeking employment might more commonly be from poorer backgrounds, Article 3 importantly provides that at the sole expense of the employer, they must provide a medical check before, during and until six months after the termination of service.

Perhaps in the context of juvenile employment, what is most important is that the occupation undertaken does not hinder the juvenile’s educational development. In this context, within the Labour Law there is no requirement for juveniles to have completed their compulsory education before undertaking employment, nor is there a requirement for the occupation not to affect the child’s attendance at school. Moreover, for juveniles who complete only primary education, there is no apprenticeship regime, whereby they can learn a trade and obtain a certified license through learning on the job (i.e., there is no provision which stipulates that schooling is compulsory).


The worst forms of child labour such as activities which are hazardous, arduous or corrupt morals of children may be an offence under the Penal Code promulgated by Royal Decree 7/1974 (the “Penal Code”) and prosecuted. Forced or compulsory labour by juveniles, or otherwise, is prohibited by Article 12 of Royal Decree 101/1996 promulgating the Basic Statute of the State as amended by Royal Decree 99/2011. Under Article 259 of the Penal Code, anyone who enslaves a person or puts him in quasi-slavery commits a crime that is punishable by a sentence of five to 15 years in prison. Under Article 220 of the Penal Code, the enticement of a minor into an act of prostitution is a crime punishable by not less than five years’ imprisonment.

The Labour Care Directorate of the Ministry of Manpower is responsible for the enforcement of juvenile labour laws. While restrictions on the employment of youth are generally followed, enforcement does not always extend to agriculture, fishing and rural areas where adherence to legislation is irregular. The Labour Law does not apply to workers working for family members on whom they are dependent by virtue of Article 2.2 of the Labour Law. Without further guidance, this might provide a loophole for juvenile exploitation. In practice, most employers will ask prospective employees for a certificate indicating that he or she has completed basic education, although this is not mandated.

Employers who violate the child labour provisions of the Oman Labour Law are subject to a fine of OMR 500 under Article 118 of the Labour Law. A second violation within one year can result in one month of imprisonment in addition to the fine.