Saudi women, workforce, Saudi Arabia
Source: CNN

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced an initiative with an aim to organize work environments for women.

According to Arab News, the strategy "aims to create an attractive working environment for women in various labor market activities, while also helping the private sector attract female workers."

The move comes at a time when large numbers of Saudi women are joining the kingdom's workforce. 

Here's a closer look at what the plan covers

The initiative - which can be found here - combats a number of issues Saudi women may face at the workplace. 

These include: 

1. Ensuring women are free at work and not pressured into doing anything

Under the new strategy, employers are ordered to avoid actions that put "pressure on women's freedom in a way that does not conform to the labor laws."

The aim of this is to prevent managers from enforcing regulations that go against the kingdom's laws on female employees. 

2. Guaranteeing equal pay for women

Saudi women, niqab
Source: Flickr

This is one of the first points under the plan and effectively bans employers from discriminating between men and women when it comes to "wages for work of equal value." 

Many hailed this part of the initiative specifically, deeming it an excellent step forward for women rights in the kingdom. 

3. Making sure female employees are comfortable in the workplace

Under the new plan, employers are responsible for ensuring female employees are comfortable in the workplace. 

Companies are expected to provide separate cubicles for women who ask for them. They also need to make sure there are separate toilet areas and prayer rooms for female workers. 

4. Working shifts when alone with male colleagues is no longer allowed

One rule under the new initiative states that in "mixed-gender workplaces, the number of females working in the same shift shall not be less than two." This is to ensure no woman is left alone with male colleagues. 

5. In specific sectors, women can only work in premises that are female-only

When it comes to the hospitality industry, companies are not allowed to hire women to work in cleaning or room service except at female-only hotels or resorts. 

6. Employers must provide efficient security systems for female employees

workforce, Saudi Arabia, women, work environment for Saudi women

The ministry's plan also includes an order under which employers are required to "provide enough security guards or an electronic security system that is operated by women." 

This was put in place to ensure women feel safe in the workplace. 

7. Barring women from working in facilities reserved for men

Women are now barred from working in facilities that are considered "male-only" under the new initiative. This specific part of the initiative has been deemed controversial by many on Saudi Twitter, calling it sexist.

Others criticized the fact that officials didn't specify what type of industries and workplaces are covered under this rule. Some questioned why Saudi women weren't being allowed to make their own choices when it comes to choosing the sector they'd like to work in.

8. Excluding women from jobs that expose them to danger

One of the last points mentioned under the initiative is one that "excludes the employment of women in industrial occupations and jobs that would expose them to dangers."

This rule was also debated on Twitter as officials didn't mention specifications on what kind of jobs would be deemed "dangerous" under it.

9. Specifying curfews for women's night shifts

Female employees are now subject to curfews; Night shifts for women workers must end at 11 p.m. This excludes females who work in "industrial activities," where the curfew is set at 6 p.m.

However, there are some activities and situations in which women can break the set curfews. These include work related to health, charity, and emergency situations.

"Women can also work at night if they hold senior positions, or if they are working in establishments that fall under the supervision of the cities or governorates and their municipalities in the month of Ramadan and peak seasons and in the central areas of Hajj and Umrah, such as working in women's supplies shops or providing entertainment and nutrition services," Arab News reported