Thursday, October 30, 2014
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Living in Doha Qatar

Labour Laws in Qatar

Qatar may seem to be a small country by size, but, in commercial terms it is a rising giant. The Labour Law in Qatar offers a body of laws outlining legal rights, restrictions and obligations of employees and employers. Potential job seekers in Qatar need to be aware that according to Qatari Labour Law, an employee will have to obtain employer's permission (exit permit) to leave Qatar.

Employment

Priority in employment is given to Qatari nationals. Qatari nationals seeking jobs can register with the Labour Ministry for potential job placements. However, employers seeking to hire non-Qataris from abroad will have to first obtain permission from the government. The new Labour Law of Qatar (2004) aims to balance the rights of employer and employee, offering hiring priority to Qatari nationals, and specifying several obligations for companies about their employees.

Sponsorship

Foreigners are allowed to work under sponsorship in Qatar. An employee who is under sponsorship is not eligible to work for another employer, without special permission. Transfer of sponsorship may be granted to an employee only if both original employer and potential new employer agree to the change.

Also, an employee under sponsorship is not allowed to leave the country, without No Objection Certificate from the employer. Without the release letter from the employer, the employee will be banned for two years from entering Qatar. Sponsors are not allowed to retain passports of their employees except for any visa formalities. Sponsored employees can bring in their spouses and children to Qatar under personal sponsorship.

Employment Contract

The employment contract should be in writing, and should include recognition of concept of end-of-service benefits, limitations on working hours, and such details.

The Arabic version of employment contract governs employment and business arrangements as per Qatari law. Prior to signing a contract, employees should ensure that the contract is translated to English, so as to fully understand the terms and limitations of the contract.

No expatriate should work in Qatar or make a business deal, without having seen or understood the full written contract, as verbal assurances are not binding in Qatar.

The written employment contract should be attested by the Department and will be given as three copies, with either party keeping a copy, and the third to be submitted at the department.

An employment contract should essentially include the name of employer, his work place, name, qualifications, nationality, profession and residence, date of conclusion of contract, nature and type of work, date of commencement of work, duration of contract, agreed wages, method of payment and end-of-service benefits.

Probation

The employment contract will have a provision wherein the employee will be subjected to a probation period not exceeding six months. The worker shall not be subjected to more than one probation period with the same employer. The employer can terminate the employment during the probation period if it has been proved that the employee is not capable of executing the work provided by the employer. The employer, however, shall notify the worker thereof before at least three days from the date of termination.

Duration of the contract

If the employment contract is of a limited duration, the duration will not be more than five years. However, this duration can be renewed from time to time as agreed by both parties. If the contract has not been renewed, and despite that, if the parties continue to abide by the contract even after its expiry, without an explicit agreement, the contract shall still be considered as renewed for an unlimited duration on the same conditions provided therein.

However, the renewed duration will be considered as an extension of the previous duration, but the period of service of the employee will be calculated as from the joining date.

Working hours

The maximum working hours in an organization shall be 44 hours a week at the rate of eight hours a day, except during the month of Ramadan, when the maximum working hours will be 36 hours a month. Workers are entitled to at least one day of rest a week, Friday being the common holiday for all workers. No employee should be made to work two or more Fridays in a row.

At times, the employee may be required to work additional hours (not exceeding ten hours). But this should not be done, unless, the additional work is necessary for prevention of gross loss to the company. In such cases, the employer will have to pay to the employee for additional working hours at a rate not less than basic wage, plus not less than 25% thereof. For working between 9pm to 6am, the employee should be paid basic wage plus not less than 50% thereof, except in the case of shift workers.

Leave

If the employee has completed one year of service with the employer, the employee shall be entitled to an annual leave. The leave shall not be less than three weeks, if employee service is less than five years and four weeks for employees whose service is more than five years.

The date of annual leave will be fixed by the employer, in accordance with work requirements. The leave may be divided with the consent of the employee, provided, the division shall not be more than two periods.

The employee may also not be entitled to payment in lieu of his annual leave, equivalent to his wage for the leave days to which he is entitled, in case the contract is terminated for any reason, and if the employee has not taken his leave.

The employee shall also be entitled to paid sick leave for each year of service. However, this will be granted only after completion of at least three months from joining, or, if the employee produces a certificate from a physician approved by the employer. If the sick leave does not exceed two weeks, the employee will be paid in full. Until four weeks, the employee will be paid half of his wage. Extension of sick leave beyond that shall be without pay until the employee resumes his work or resigns or his service is terminated for health reasons.

Workers Committees

Qatari workers can form Workers Committee and join larger trade unions. Strikes are permitted, provided, they follow the rules of the Labour Law.

Safety Rules

The Qatari law mandates employers to advise workers before joining, about any potential dangers associated with their jobs.

Employers should take necessary measures to protect employees from any injury or disease occurring during work, or from the works happening in their establishments. If an employer fails to take any such precautionary measures, causing danger to health and safety of employees, workers can bring the issue to the notice of Ministry of Labour. The Ministry has the right to shut down one or more such machines, until the hazard is eliminated.

In case of any such injury occurring due to lack of precautionary measures from the employers, the employer will have to bear the cost of treatment. In the event of death of an employee resulting from workplace accidents, the employer, by law, is required to fully compensate the families of the victims.

Workplace Disputes

In the event of employment dispute, Qatari authorities refer to Arabic version of the contract. As the issuance of exit visas is under the control of a Qatari sponsor, the employee will be unable to leave Qatar without their sponsor’s approval in the event of an emergency or employment or business dispute.

Any expatriate employee, breaking an employment or business contract, will have to pay substantial penalties before departing Qatar. It is said that generally Qatari sponsors have substantial leverage in any negotiations, and can block the departure of employee or bar future employment in Qatar. In case a sponsor complaint exists against an employee who had already departed Qatar, the employee may be barred from returning to Qatar even on a tourist visa.

In case of any unresolved dispute continuing between an employer and employee, the employee can file a complaint within a year of the event to the Labour Ministry. The National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), which is also available to deal with human rights violations. For details, visit www.nhrc-qa.org.

Transfer of Employment

Transfer of employment in Qatar requires permission of previous employer, and is subject to approval by Interior Ministry. No other embassies have standing in Qatar’s courts, and do not have the right to sponsor visas, or mediate labour or business disputes in Qatar. Although the embassies can help their nationals in settling disputes, the ultimate responsibility for resolution of dispute lies in legal system of Qatar, and the parties involved.

Expiry / termination of the contract

The expiry of a contract is dependent on the nature of work. For instance, if the subject-matter of the contract is based on completion of a certain task, the contract may expire on completing the task.

On the other hand, if the work is susceptible of being renewed and if the work is being continued as per the contract, the contract will be considered as having been renewed for similar periods, as per the agreement of two parties.

The employee can terminate the service contract prior to its expiry date, if the contract is of a definite duration, without giving reason for termination of contract. However, if the contract is of an indefinite duration, the employee can obtain end of service gratuity, if the employer commits a breach of his obligations, under the service contract, or if the employer commits a physical assault or immoral act upon the employee, or if the employer does not adhere to the terms and conditions of the work, or if the work endangers the safety of the worker and the employer does not initiate any measure to remove it.

The employer, on expiry of the service contract, will have to provide the employee with a service certificate, free of charge, indicating his date of employment, type of work he performs, and the amount of wage he was receiving. The employer should also return to the employee the documents and certificates which the employees submit to the employer.

On termination of the service of the employee, the employer is liable to bear his cost of return to his home country, or to any place agreed upon between the parties. The employer shall complete the proceedings of returning the expatriate employee within a period of not more than two weeks from expiry date of the contract.

However, if the employee joins another employee before his departure from the State, then it is the duty of the new employer to bear the travel expense of the employee.

Gratuity

Apart from any sums which the employee is due to receive of expiry of service, the employer also will have to pay the end of service gratuity to the employee, if he/she has completed employment of one year or more. This shall be agreed upon by the two parties, provided, it is not more than three-week wage for every year of employment. The employee will be entitled to gratuity depending on fractions of the year, in proportion to duration of employment. The gratuity will be calculated depending on last basic wage.

Employment of Juveniles

A child below the age of sixteen may not be employed for work of whatsoever nature and shall not be allowed to enter any place of work.

A juvenile can be employed only if consent of his father or guardian is obtained, and a special permission from the Department is obtained. If the juvenile is a Qatari pupil, an approval from Minister of Education should be obtained.

The Juveniles shall not be employed in the works, where its nature of work may cause damage to health, safety or morals thereof. A juvenile may be employed only after medical examination by competent medical authority.

Employment of Women

A working woman shall be paid wages equivalent to wage payable to a man, if the nature of work is the same, and shall be offered the same opportunities for training and promotion.

Women shall not be employed in dangerous arduous works, or works detrimental to their health, morals or other works, to be specified by a decision of the Minister.

Female employees are also entitled to maternity leave with full payment for a period of fifty days, on completion of at least one year of service with the same employer. Such maternity leave shall include the period before and after delivery, provided, the period following delivery should not exceed thirty five days.

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