New legislation (Royal Decree 125/2020) has recently been passed in Oman introducing a fast-tracked court litigation procedure for dealing with certain disputes, including employment claims.
The new fast track procedure will come into effect from 21 February 2021 and introduces some significant changes to the current procedure for dealing with employment claims.
The key changes are:
- an employment claim that by-passes the Ministry of Labour's mediation process will not be heard by the Oman courts;
- a settlement reached at mediation will have the same legal effect as a court judgment provided the record of settlement is signed by the parties, the Ministry of Labour official and a judge appointed to deal with the matter;
- a claim will now only be heard by one judge regardless of value, rather than three judges (as was the case for claims valued at OMR 70,000 or more);
- pleadings (including original statement of claim, exhibits and appeals) must now be filed using the court electronic system;
- the Primary Court must issue a judgment within 30 days of the date the case has been transferred to it; this time frame may only be extended once for a further 30 days if a trial date has not been set;
- in relation to a preliminary application to dismiss a claim for lack of subject jurisdiction, the court shall deal with the application and issue its judgment within 8 days from the date of filing the application;
- judgments will be issued via the court electronic system within a 30-day time frame;
- the time limit for appealing against a Primary Court judgment to the Appeal Court has been reduced from 30 days to 15 days (unless the case concerns a preliminary action to dismiss, where the time limit is 10 days);
- a party may only appeal the judgment if the value of the claim either exceeds OMR 2,000 or if the appeal falls within one of the limited grounds of exception under Article 12, such as the lower court has affirmed an employee's dismissal; a security deposit of OMR 100 will be required to be paid although employee litigants remain exempt from paying this;
- the Appeal Court must issue its judgment within 30 days of the date the appeal is filed (unless the case concerns a preliminary action to dismiss, where judgment must be issued within 15 days);
- there will no longer be a right to appeal further to the Supreme Court, therefore the Appeal Court is the final arbiter in employment claims;
- in applications concerning the enforcement of a judgment, the ability of an enforcement judge to issue an arrest warrant or imprisonment has been severely curtailed and will be limited to only those circumstances where a party (or their authorised representative) has deliberately refused to comply with an enforceable judgment or enforcement summons;
- service of judicial papers by SMS or by other electronic means of communication that is capable of being saved and extracted will be permitted; and
- a party who fails to attend a hearing when required to do so may be subject to a fine for non- attendance.
The changes are significant indeed and are set to change the litigation landscape for employment disputes.
Employers will need to be mindful of the shortened time limits and ensure that their employment records are in good order (including Arabic translations of key documents) at all times so that they are fully prepared to deal with claims filed by existing or former employees.
Our experienced employment team in Oman will be happy to assist with termination issues and case preparation.