If you break the law, you can be instantly dismissed if the situation warrants it and the employer is so inclined. If you become involved in an altercation serious enough to warrant police attention, for example, or if you’re found guilty of drunken driving, your employer might dismiss you. You would be deemed to have defaulted on the terms of your contract and be ineligible for any indemnity payment due to you. However, an employee cannot be dismissed (or demoted) while on leave out of the country.
If you’re made redundant, the termination clause in your contract (of one month or whatever is applicable) comes into effect. Your employer might enhance the offer if he feels that your work deserves it or if it will cause hardship for you to have to leave Saudi Arabia.
Arabs sometimes make far-reaching judgements based on the ‘chemistry’ between you and them. If they don’t like you, they’re likely to look for excuses to terminate the association. It’s obviously in your interest to resolve any dispute amicably yourself, as you can never predict the outcome and, even if you ‘win’, it might be damaging or even disastrous to your career prospects.
Expatriates should avoid legal tussles whenever possible, which are time consuming and can lead to untold difficulties. If a dispute arises that cannot be immediately resolved between your employer and yourself, take your case to the relevant Ministry of Labour. If they agree with your interpretation of events, they will take the matter up with your employer on your behalf. Each state has its own labour laws, and an English-language version can be obtained from the Ministry. In general, the Ministries can be relied upon to make fair judgements in cases of dispute and don’t tend to be biased in favour of local employers. Do be aware, however, that adjournments or delays in sorting out any disputes usually work to the detriment of the employee: delays mean time and money, and the expatriate will have a limited amount of both. Serious disputes, however, are rare.
The region has no tradition of organised trades unions, and their formation is illegal; strikes, therefore, are virtually unknown. It’s possible to form an association within your company to make approaches on a collective basis to management, but this would have validity only within the individual company. Individual representation to the management is possible, but you will need to be understated, brave and have your return plane ticket handy!