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Qatar

January 15, 2021

By Gordon Barr, Ghazal Hawamdeh and Samir Kantaria

Back to International Employment Law

Qatar

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2021


 

New minimum wage law

Qatar issued Law No. 17 of 2020 setting a minimum wage for employees and domestic workers ("Minimum Wage Law"). Article 3 of the Minimum Wage Law provides that no wages of an employee or domestic worker shall be less than the minimum wage and any agreement to the contrary shall be void.

In addition, Law no 25 of 2020 has been introduced setting the minimum wage payable to a worker or domestic worker at 1,000 QAR per month. In addition, if an employer does not provide housing or food for an employee or domestic worker, a minimum housing allowance of QAR 500 per month and a minimum food allowance of QAR 300 per month shall also be paid to the worker. The said law shall be in force after six months of its publication in the Official Gazette, which would be from March 2021.


 

Law no 18 of 2020

Qatar has issued Law no. 18 of 2020 amending certain provisions of Law no. 14 of 2004 (the "Labour Law") as follows:

  1. Notice periods

    Either the employer or the employee may terminate an employment relationship on one month's notice if the period of employment is less than two years, and on two months' notice if employment is longer than two years. Previously, two months' notice applied only for employees being employed for more than five years.

    Furthermore, an employer may terminate a probation period on one month's notice; previously such notice was three days. However, if an employee resigns during the probation period, the following notice periods will now apply:

    • at least one month's notice if an employee resigns due to the reason of securing new employment in Qatar; or
    • if an employee resigns in order to leave Qatar, the notice period may be agreed between the parties, however such notice period may not exceed two months.
  2. Non‑compete provisions

    Article 51 of the Labour Law has been amended to provide that an employer may stipulate that an employee should not compete with an employer or be involved with any competing entity in the same business field. However, such non‑compete provision is not permitted to exceed a period of one year. Further conditions and controls regarding non‑compete clauses may be regulated by Ministerial resolution.

  3. Termination on economic grounds or restructuring

    Law no 18 of 2020 also introduces procedures on terminating employees for economic grounds or on restructuring or for any other reason that does not relate to the employment contract. In such cases, employers must notify the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs at least 15 days prior to such termination setting out the reasons for termination, the number of employees being terminated and the date by which such termination is intended to be finalised.

  4. Wage Protection System

    Law no 18 of 2020 introduces a stricter penalty for non‑compliance with Article 66 of the Labour Law that obliges employers to pay employees' salaries through the Wage Protection System. Pursuant to the amendment, the fine is now set at not less than QAR 2,000 and not more than QAR 10,000. Possible imprisonment has been increased to a period not exceeding one year.

  5. Housing

    If employers are providing accommodation to their employees, such accommodation must meet such standards as are determined by a Ministerial resolution in accordance with a new Article 106 bis. The requirement that employers must provide accommodation for working in remote places pursuant to Article 106 remains as originally drafted. The penalty for non‑compliance with Article 106 and 106 bis of the Labour Law is now imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months and/or a fine of not less than QAR 2,000 QAR and not more than QAR 100,000.

These changes were important in that they signalled that Qatar Government has applied focus to protecting employees, in which direction it is expected to continue.


 

Non‑objection certificate ("NOC")

The Law Regulating the Entry, Exit and Residence of Expatriates, being Law no. 21 of 2015 (the "Sponsorship Law") was amended by Law 19 of 2020 as follows:

a) The five year qualifying period for transfer of employment has now been removed from Article 21 of the Sponsorship Law. This means that an employee is able to transfer his/her employment to another employer at any time, including within the first five years of employment, without the consent of the existing employer.

b) Article 23 has also been amended to allow employees to take on additional part time work with another employer subject to the approval of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs but no longer subject to approval of the original sponsor/employer.

c) The approval by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs for temporary transfer of sponsorship to another employer if there is a legal action between an expatriate worker and his sponsor that was previously in Article 22 is now removed.

In 2021, further relaxation of Qatar immigration system will also occur to provide additional flexibility in the labour market. In addition, based on the trend during the COVID‑19 pandemic, more immigration related administrative processes are anticipated to be conducted online.

With thanks to Gordon Barr, Ghazal Hawamdeh and Samir Kantaria of Al Tamimi & Company for their invaluable collaboration on this update.

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2020


 

Introduction of the new minimum wage

A draft law proposing the setting of a minimum wage for workers and domestic workers is being reviewed by the Shura Council. The draft law was submitted by the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, and the objectives and mechanisms for implementation of the draft law are intended to fall within: (i) the framework of the National Vision 2030; (ii) the implementation of the National Development Strategy; and (iii) international standards generally.

No further information on the provisions of the draft law have been made available as of yet.


 

Free Zone Employees

The Qatar Free Zones are now operational. The Ras Bufontas Free Zone, close to Hamad International Airport, has been designed for businesses who wish to take advantage of the proximity to reliable air transportation services. Umm Alhoul Free Zone is directly adjacent to Hamad Port, the world's largest greenfield port, and provides a location for industries who require access to sea freight and shipping routes. Both zones are dedicated to particular industries, allowing for optimal cluster growth and tailored infrastructure and facilities. The free zones also provide access to housing accommodation, retail stores, parks, mosques, health clinics and more.

Whilst employees in the free zones are currently subject to the Labour Law (Law 14 of 2004) and the Sponsorship Law (Law 13 of 2018) applicable throughout Qatar, the Qatar Free Zones Authority is in the process of developing its own employment regulations and immigration regulations. These regulations could emulate the regulations governing employment and immigration that are currently in place in the Qatar Financial Centre (the "QFC").


 

Removal of exit permits to leave Qatar

In 2018, the Qatar authorities abolished the requirement for the majority of workers to obtain an exit permit from their employers if they wanted to leave the country for any reason. However, the abolition of the exit permit requirement did not extend to employees outside the scope of the Labour Law, such as Government employees, military staff, employees of Qatar Petroleum and related entities, and domestic workers. The QFC already had a system in place for the mandatory granting of exit permits to QFC-based employees, but no system was in place for other non-Labour Law employees.

A new ministerial decision has now removed the exit permit requirement for workers not covered by the 2018 law and all previously excluded employees (save for those in the military) are now able to leave the country without obtaining an exit permit from their employer. However, employers can apply for exceptions for a few workers (up to 5% of their total employees) and domestic workers are still required to inform their employer of their intention to leave the country at least 72 hours prior to their departure.

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2019


 

Establishment of the Labour Dispute Resolution Committee

Law No. 13 of 2017 amends several provisions of the Qatari Labour Law, which relate to labour disputes.

All employment disputes must now be brought before the new The Labour Dispute Resolution Committee (“LDRC”) before the dispute will be heard by any Qatari Courts. The intention behind the establishment of the LDRC is to offer a quicker resolution for employment disputes rather than having to go through the Qatari Court process (which can be protracted and costly).

In cases of wrongful dismissal, the LDRC has the power to:

  • cancel the employer’s decision to dismiss the employee and award reinstatement, and also to order payment of unpaid wages for the period the employee was not allowed to work; or
  • order payment of suitable compensation to the employee, which “shall include the wages and other benefits” denied to the employee as a result of dismissal.

Parties may appeal LDRC decisions directly to the Court of Appeal (i.e. there is no need to go through the usual Court of First Instance stage of litigation).


 

Amendments to the Sponsorship Law

Law No. 13 of 2018 came into force on 28 October 2018 and amends Article 7 of Law No 21 of 2015 regulating the entry, exit, and residency of expatriates (“Sponsorship Law”).

Previously, expatriates sponsored by an employer were not permitted to temporarily or permanently leave Qatar unless they obtained an exit permit from their employer. However, the amendment provides that such exit permits will no longer be required for any exit from the country during the period of an employee’s employment contract. However, it should be noted that abolition of the exit permit is not absolute. What this will mean in practice will still need to be clarified, but any such application may not involve more than 5% of the employer’s total workforce.

The amendment will only apply to expatriate employees to which Law No. 14 of 2004 (“Labour Law”) applies, so there are still a number of the expatriate employees that are required to obtain employer consent to exit the country, e.g. domestic workers, public sector employees, employees of Qatar Financial Centre entities. In the event that an expatriate employee is excluded from such exit rights, that employee has the right to file a complaint with Expatriate Grievances Committee.

This reform represents a significant change in workers’ rights in Qatar and will mean that employers will no longer be able to prevent the movement of the vast majority of their employees. From an administrative viewpoint, it will also reduce workloads of human resource departments who otherwise would need to keep track of employees’ movements and ensure that exit permits are in place for each trip out of the country.

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2018


 

Easing of Exit Permit System

Qatar has introduced changes to its controversial “exit permit” requirement, whereby an employee could not leave the country (either temporarily for a holiday or permanently) unless his/her employer granted an “exit permit”. If an employee wants to leave the country, their employer must now file a “leave notification” online. If an employer refuses to file the “leave notification”, the employee may raise a complaint with the newly formed Expatriates’ Exit Grievances Committee.

Amendments to the No Objection Certificates (“NOCs”) have also taken place. The requirement to obtain a NOC has been relaxed in cases where employment has been terminated by the employer (i.e. not employee resignation) for reasons other than gross misconduct.


 

Mandatory Pre-Court Process in Resolution of Employment Disputes

A new Labour Dispute Resolution Committee (“LDRC”) will be established to provide a specialized body to deal with employment disputes (rather than having to go through the lengthy court process in Qatar).


 

Standard Form Employment Contract

Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (“MADLSA”) has issued the first standard form employment contract. All employers are now required to register the standard contract as part of the employment visa process. It is possible, though not mandatory to have an additional employment contract to supplement the standard contract.

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2017


 

Changes to sponsorship law

Changes are expected to include reform of the exit permit system (to allow more employee input) and changes to the requirement for no-objection certificates in relation to changing sponsors in Qatar.

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2016


 

New expatriates’ law

Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (“MADLSA”) has issued the first standard form employment contract. All employers are now required to register the standard contract as part of the employment visa process. It is possible, though not mandatory to have an additional employment contract to supplement the standard contract.

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2017


 

Changes to sponsorship law

Changes are expected to include reform of the exit permit system (to allow more employee input) and changes to the requirement for no-objection certificates in relation to changing sponsors in Qatar.

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2016


 

New expatriates’ law

The Qatari government introduced new legislation (effective December 2016) regulating the entry, exit, and residence of expatriates in Qatar (the “Expatriates’ Law”). This result in a number of significant changes, including: (1) the system of exit permits for expatriate employees wishing to exit Qatar, and (2) changes in relation to the requirement to obtain a no-objection certificate from a current employer if the employee seeks to obtain employment with another employer in Qatar.

With thanks to Gordon Barr, Ghazal Hawamdeh, Laya Al Hareeri and Roxanne Vesuvala of Al Tamimi & Company for their invaluable collaboration on this update.

Contributors

Image: Suzanne Horne
Suzanne Horne
Partner, Employment Law Department

Image: Kirsty Devine
Kirsty Devine
Associate, Employment Law Department

Image: Aashna Parekh
Aashna Parekh
Associate, Employment Law Department

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