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On 24 September 2021, the long anticipated Personal Data Protection Law, promulgated by Royal Decree No. M/19, dated 09/02/1443H (corresponding to 16 September 2021), was published in the Saudi Official Gazette. The Law was developed by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, which will be the competent governmental authority to administer the Law for a period of two years but it may thereafter transfer such competence to the National Data Management Office.

Employers have been facing many difficult and untested employment law issues over the last year and a half with COVID-19 and the impact it is having on their business. One of the most critical of these issues is whether they can make vaccination compulsory for their employees. On 7 May 2021, the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (“MHRSD”) announced that it would be mandatory for public and private sector workers to be vaccinated in order to attend the workplace. On 18 May 2021, the Ministry of Interior (“MoI”) clarified that this mandate would come into force on 1 August 2021.

On 26 March 2021 Saudi Arabia’s long awaited Privatisation Law was published, promulgated by Council of Ministers’ Resolution No. 436 dated 3/8/1442H (corresponding to 16 March 2021) and Royal Decree M/63 dated 5/8/1442H (corresponding to 18 March 2021) (the “Privatisation Law”). The Privatisation Law will come into effect 120 days after publication, and will provide a transparent and flexible regulatory framework for the procurement and documentation of Public Private Partnership projects (“PPPs”) and existing asset privatisations (“Asset Privatisations”) in the Kingdom (“Privatisation Projects”).

On April 8, 2021, the US Treasury Department published an updated List of Countries Requiring Cooperation With An International Boycott (the “Treasury List”). Significantly, Treasury announced that it had removed the UAE from the Treasury List following the UAE’s repeal of its law requiring participation with the Arab League Boycott of Israel and subsequent implementation of the new policy.

On 4 November 2020, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) announced certain labor reforms for foreign national employees working in the private sector that will come into effect on 14 March 2021. Since the initial announcement, the MHRSD (in coordination with the National Transformation Program and National Information Center) announced the conditions in order to benefit from each of the initiatives.

Our Middle East Tax Newsletter aims to provide you with regular updates, insights and practical guidance on the tax implications of doing business in the region.

In this issue, we provide a roundup of the current status of Value Added Tax (VAT) and the most recent tax related developments across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as their implications on the financial position of businesses.

Recent developments in the labour laws of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been issued to bridge the gender pay gap between men and women. The updates have been in relation to: (i) prohibiting discrimination, whether in pay or otherwise, between male and female employees who carry out the same job in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain; (ii) introducing paternity leave in the UAE; and (iii) granting female workers in Saudi Arabia further rights in the workplace (including working in hazardous workplaces and at night).