* Minimum wage comes into effect
With the new minimum wage coming into effect on Saturday, the first of its kind in the Middle East, the Government Communications Office (GCO) has highlighted the reforms that have been introduced by Qatar to protect the rights of both employers and workers.
“Qatar’s reforms have been recognised by major human rights groups and UN organisations. This progress makes Qatar the leader in the Gulf on labour reform as unlike others in the region, Qatar’s reforms are genuine, long-lasting and the product of years of careful planning,” the GCO says.
The reforms can be viewed on the Labour Reform page on the GCO website at https://gco.gov.qa/en/focus/labour-reform/
Earlier, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) had announced the implementation of the new minimum wage for all workers, starting Saturday.
This comes in implementation of Law No. 17 of 2020 regarding setting the minimum wage for workers and domestic workers.
The ministry said all companies must comply with the minimum wage of QR1,000 when concluding contracts. Also, the employer should allocate an allowance if adequate housing and food for the worker or domestic worker are not provided. The minimum housing allowance is QR500, while food allowance is QR300, with the obligation to amend the employment contracts.
Last September, the ministry announced a six-month transition period to modify the conclusion of contracts so that employers could be able to prepare for the transition.
The MADLSA emphasised that adopting minimum basic wage, housing and food would generate better relations between the employer and the employee, adding that Qatar is the first country in the region to adopt a non-discriminatory minimum wage, which is a fundamental pillar in the reform programme and the transition plan to move towards a knowledge-based economy, as stipulated in Qatar National Vision 2030.
“The government considers the welfare of guest workers as one of the key priorities and is committed to reforming Qatar’s labour laws and practices to design a system that is fit for purpose for both employees and employers,” the GCO website says. “Labour policy is a complex issue and one that cannot be solved overnight. However, over the past several years, Qatar has implemented extensive reforms to strengthen labour laws, and increase protections for migrant workers.”
Most notably, Qatar has:
* Introduced new laws that mean the majority of workers no longer need exit permits to leave the country.
* Announced procedures allowing workers to change employment freely, without requiring a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from their previous employer.
* Introduced a non-discriminatory minimum wage.
* Announced the establishment of 20 Qatar Visa Centres (QVCs) in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tunisia, which will expedite the recruitment process and ensure workers do not get exploited in their home countries.
* Established a Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund, which will ensure and provide care for workers, guarantee their rights and provide a healthy and safe working environment.
The Government of Qatar has implemented major labour reforms in the past few years, including:
* Minimum wage: in 2020, the government introduced a non-discriminatory minimum wage of QR1,000 per month. An additional QR500 must be allocated per month by the employer for accommodation expenses, and QR300 per month for food, unless provided by the employer. The minimum wage is the first of its kind in the Middle East and will provide additional stability to Qatar’s labour market.
HE Yousef bin Mohamed al-Othman Fakhro, the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, announced that a Minimum Wage Committee will be formed and tasked with the continued review and examination of the minimum wage of employees and domestic workers.
* No-Objection Certificates: employees will no longer require NOCs to terminate their contracts.
Following the Qatar National Vision 2030’s aim of attracting workers, protecting their rights and ensuring their safety, the new decision will encourage economic growth and open doors for investors, employers and employees alike. This will drive greater competition in Qatar’s labour market by allowing employees to change employers and allowing employers to attract the best talent in the local market.
The new law also indicates the following for employees:
1. Employees will have the ability to pursue new opportunities in Qatar and strengthen the economy though local and international business.
2. Employees will be able to terminate their contract providing at least one month’s written notice if they have worked with the employer for two years or less, or two months’ notice if they have worked with the employer for over two years.
3. Employees can be placed on probation for a period agreed upon with their employer, as long as the period of probation is no more than six months from the date their work commenced.
4. In the case that employees had access to sensitive information, the employer can stipulate that the employee cannot compete with them on any projects or work within a year of ending the contract.
* The cancelling of exit permissions: on January 16, 2020, HE the Interior Minister’s Decision No 95 of 2019 was issued, indicating that with immediate effect, exit permits have been removed for all expatriates who are not subject to Qatar’s Labour Law.
The new law allows almost all migrant workers in Qatar – including domestic workers – to leave the country without first obtaining permission from their employers, except for military personnel. In order to protect the rights of both employers and domestic workers, domestic workers must notify employers at least 72 hours prior to their departure.
The decision also stipulates that the employer has the right to submit a prior reasoned request to the Ministry of Interior including the names of those whom they deem necessary to obtain prior approval before leaving the country due to the nature of their work, provided that it does not exceed 5% of employees.
* Domestic workers’ law: in August 2017, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani issued Law No 15 of 2017, which regulates the relationship between domestic workers and their employers. The law advances the rights of domestic workers in accordance with the provisions of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No 189 on working conditions for domestic workers.
The Ministerial Decision No 95 of 2019 further allows domestic workers to leave the country without first obtaining permission from their employers. In order to protect the rights of both employers and domestic workers, domestic workers must notify employers at least 72 hours prior to their departure.
* Joint Committees: in April 2019, HE the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs signed a decree regulating the conditions and procedures for the election of worker representatives in Joint Committees. This decree will allow workers in companies with 30 or more employees to elect their own representatives.
Joint Committees bring together representatives of management and facility workers into regular communication over workplace issues. This includes topics such as the organisation of work, ways to increase production and development, workers’ training programmes, risk prevention tools, and ways to improve the level of adherence to occupational safety and health rules.
* Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund: in October 2018, His Highness the Amir issued Law No 17 of 2018 to establish the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund. The fund protects workers from the impact of overdue or unpaid wages in instances where the employer has gone out of business or been forced to close due to illegal activity.
* Qatar Visa Centres: Qatar has announced the establishment of 20 Qatar Visa Centres (QVC) to create a unified visa system that expedites the recruitment process and protects the rights of workers by eliminating exploitative practices in their home countries.
QVCs will be located in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tunisia.
Qatar Visa Centres are an initiative led by the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Public Health.
* ILO first project office opens in Doha: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) inaugurated its first project office in Qatar on 30 April 2018. The office will support implementation of a comprehensive technical cooperation programme on working conditions and labour rights in Qatar.
This announcement is an acknowledgement of the important steps the Qatari government has taken to develop a modern labour system that is fair to employers and employees alike.
* Labour Dispute Resolution Committees: in March 2018, Qatar established Labour Dispute Resolution Committees with the aim of improving access to justice by settling labour disputes within three weeks of a migrant worker filing a complaint.
* Regulating the entry, exit, and residence of expatriates: in 2015, Qatar issued Law No 21 of 2015, which introduces new provisions regulating the entry, exit and residency requirements for Qatar’s workers. The law came into effect on December 13, 2016, and introduced new provisions that provide the freedom to change jobs: new measures to prevent contract substitution; greater transparency;
enhanced representation; and new measures to prevent passport confiscation.
* Wage Protection System: the government has also legislated to protect workers from wage exploitation through the introduction of a Wage Protection System (WPS).
The law seeks to end a cash-in-hand culture that puts workers at risk throughout the world. In addition, it also grants new powers to the Qatari authorities to monitor wage payment and ensures that migrant workers are being paid in full and on time, as stipulated in their contracts.
* Health, safety & welfare: the government employs multilingual male and female labour inspectors who are fully trained on all aspects of Qatari labour law. These individuals have the ability to file reports instantly from location using GPS-equipped electronic handheld devices.
The government also has channels available for individuals to report grievances against their employer. A 24/7 hotline has been set-up for workers and 11 electronic kiosks have been set-up in locations across Qatar (operating in 11 languages) for workers to file anonymous complaints.