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Qatar

January 26, 2021

By  Gordon Barr, Laya Al Hareeri, Roxanne Vesuvala and Ghazal Hawamdeh

Back to International Employment Law

Qatar

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