Law No (14) of 2004 (Labour Law) governs the terms of employment of the majority of employees currently working in Qatar.
The Labour Law sets out the ways in which an employee’s employment can be terminated. Employment may be terminated with or without any reason being given on the part of the terminating party.
In addition, the Labour Law sets out the disciplinary powers of an employer, the penalties which may be imposed by the employer on its employees and the appropriate disciplinary procedure which must be followed when imposing them.
The Labour Law (Article 3) excludes various individuals and entities, including but not limited to, individuals employed by Ministries and other governmental organisations, public institutions and companies which have been established by Qatar Petroleum and domestic and casual employees from its provisions and regulation.
Where individuals are excluded from the Labour Law their employment is subject to alternative legal and regulatory provisions. For the purposes of this article we have only considered the provisions of the Labour Law and the individuals whose employment it governs.
The Labour Law (Article 49) provides that the employment of an employee, if he is employed for an indefinite term, may be terminated by either the employer or the employee giving written notice to the other.
No reason for such termination will need to be given by the party serving notice. Various minimum notice periods are set out in the Labour Law, but generally, after an employee has successfully complied with the terms of any probation period to which his employment is subject, notice must be at least one month for employees who have been employed by the same employer for five years and two months for employees who have been employed for more than five years.
The effect of such termination will be for the employer to pay the employee his wages and other benefits due to him in full for the full notice period provided the employee performs his work as usual.
If the employer, in its discretion, asks the employee not to work for some or all of his notice period the employer will still be obliged to pay the employee in full. Also at its discretion, the employer can pay the employee in lieu of notice.
If an employee is employed for a definite or fixed term, both the employer and the employee must agree to terminate the employee’s employment before the term has expired if there is no specific reason for such termination.
If an employer seeks to terminate employment and an employee does not agree to the same, the employer may have to pay the employee his wages and other benefits in full for the remainder of the unexpired term.
This would not usually be the case where an employee’s employment is stated as being for the duration of a specific project and early termination is the result of the early completion of that project.
In addition to termination where neither party is required to give a reason for terminating employment, the Labour Law sets out the circumstances in which either an employee or an employer can terminate employment by giving a reason. Such termination can be with or without written notice being served, ie. with immediate effect.
The Labour Law (Article 51) permits an employee to terminate his employment with immediate effect if, amongst other things, his employer has breached the terms of the employee’s employment, has physically assaulted him, has misled him and/or if to continue employment would put him in danger and the employer is aware of such danger.
The Labour Law (Article 61) permits an employer to terminate an employee’s employment with immediate effect if amongst other things the employee has assumed a false identity or nationality or submitted false certificates or documents, committed an act which causes gross financial loss to the employer, disclosed confidential information, is found drunk or under the influence of drugs during working hours or is absent from work without legitimate cause for more than 7 consecutive days or 15 days in one year.
The Labour Law generally requires employers to put in place appropriate policies and procedures to govern the employment of their employees. In relation to matters of discipline, the Labour Law (Article 58) gives an employer, employing more than 10 employees, powers to put in place disciplinary policies and procedures and the sanctions which will be applied to employees who breach them.
Such policies and procedures must be approved by the Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and made available to all employees. They will take effect 15 days after they have been made available.
The Labour Law (Article 59) specifies the following permitted sanctions which employers may impose on employees:
* written warnings;
* deduction of up to five days’ wages;
* suspension without pay for five days;
* suspension without pay or with reduced pay during an investigation; if the employee’s innocence is established, the employee must be reinstated and paid his salary for the period of the suspension;
* delay in granting annual bonuses for six months;
* delay in promotions for one year;
* dismissal from work with payment of a termination payment (gratuity); or
* dismissal from work without payment of gratuity.
Only one penalty may be imposed in respect of each breach and only those listed may be imposed. In addition, when inflicting any one of the above sanctions, the employer must ensure that the employee is not being penalised otherwise than for a breach directly related to his work, whether committed during or outside of working hours or at or outside of his place of work.
Importantly, the employee must be informed of any accusation against him and given due opportunity to respond before any sanction is imposed. This process may be undertaken orally in the case of minor breaches, provided that some form of report or record of any conversation is filed on the employee’s file. A penalty file should also be maintained and any financial penalties recorded.
The Labour Law (Article 62) requires that some form of disciplinary procedure is carried out before a sanction is imposed, which should as a minimum involve:
* writing to the employee to set out the reasons for considering disciplinary action and inviting him to a meeting to discuss the issues;
* meeting with the employee to give him a substantive explanation of the reasons for considering disciplinary action and to give him an opportunity to make any representations he has; and
* confirming the decision in writing following the meeting.
In terms of timing, the Labour Law provides that an employee may not be charged with a disciplinary offence after more than 15 days have lapsed since the employer became aware of the breach.
It is important to note that how an employee’s employment is terminated will determine whether or not he will receive a Gratuity in addition to his wages and any other benefits to which he is entitled when his employment is terminated. The Labour Law provides that an employee will receive gratuity if his employment is terminated either by him or his employer having given notice with no reasons (Article 49), in certain circumstances where reasons are given (Article 59) or if he terminates his employment with immediate effect as the direct result of the actions of his employer (Article 51), but that he will not receive his gratuity if his employment is terminated for reasons of his gross misconduct (Article 61).
The Labour Law (Article 54) provides that an employer and employee can agree on the amount of gratuity provided the amount equals to or is higher than 3 weeks’ of the employee’s termination basic salary for every full year that he has worked for the employer. Part years are pro rated.