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Times of Oman - 18.04.2015

Muscat: While a two-year visa ban has been imposed on expatriates, no measures have been introduced to regulate Omani employees leading to a debate on whether there should be new rules to protect companies which invest in training citizens.

Speaking to Times of Oman's sister publication Al Shabiba, Tawfiq Al Lawati, member of Majlis Al Shura, said, "Efforts to train nationals goes in vain when a larger firm poaches employees. There needs to be a protection plan for organisations which significantly invest in training Omanis, otherwise their growth will be hurt."


He also criticised larger firms for 'luring' employees, asking, "Why do they have to poach, when they can train fresh graduates? An agreement is needed to tackle this problem." 

P.V. Venkatesh, principal consultant and business head at MPower HR, said that rules and regulations are 'definitely' required to encourage training of locals, as firms are concerned about their continued employment, and "a no-poaching pact should be considered for employees with less than three years of experience," he added. 

Venkatesh further said the agreement would help stabilise work forces at their respective firms and retain the investment made in their training, "While poaching can never be fully prevented, such measures would, to a great extent, reduce its intensity."

However, poaching is 'a fact of life', says Tonia Gray, General Manager of Competence HR said, "People want to develop and move upwards in their careers. It is not a good idea to restrict their development; they would eventually move to gain the desired experience. It's in the interest of the firm to develop its employees, with the aim that they remain." 

She stressed that smaller organisations, which are particularly affected, are responsible for retaining their employees.

Gray, however, suggests a 'Claw back agreement' to protect firms, "This kind of agreement is frequently used in the west. It allows the organisation to reclaim costs if an employee doesn't remain for a fixed period after finalising a training programme."

For example, she said, "A firm invests in a programme that costs OMR2,500. If an individual leaves within one year after completing the programme, he signs an agreement to repay this money.  If it is within 18 months, maybe 50% is to be repaid."  

She also notes, "The period during which the investment is repaid should vary depending upon the amount of money and duration of the training programme undertaken by the individual.  It would be unreasonable, for instance, to invest OMR100 and expect an employee to pay that back 18 months later. Each agreement would have to be considered on a case by case basis."

Omani businessman Pankaj Khimji, director, Khimji Ramdas said, "We at KR are very people driven and employ nearly 2000 nationals. KR does not support any sort of restrictions on movement of employees from company to company irrespective of nationality. We never have and don't intend to in the future either."

He suggested "incentives by extending tax rebates should be an ideal way to encourage employing and retaining nationals".

Pankaj believes "training and up-skilling is part of a large organisations culture. However smaller companies find it difficult to invest in HRD and become a target of larger established organisations when it comes to poaching talented and skilled employees."

He feels, "hence it's necessary to enforce a minimum time period in the employment contract at the time of hiring talent. This should be legally enforceable."

Pankaj feels restrictive practices like the two year ban does not reflect well on Oman's image as a respected developing nation. 

"The IT and the oil and gas industry is well known to hire short term and rotate talent on a ongoing basis. That's the norm! The ban simply puts a dampener on Oman's ability to attract the right talent in these sectors," he says.

Pankaj says, "certain sectors should be allowed to hire and relieve personnel irrespective of nationality, according the duration of contracts the company has."
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