On 20 March 2016, the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA) published two Public Consultation Papers setting out proposed enhancements and refinements to the QFC Employment Regulations No.10 of 2006 (QFC Employment Regulations) and the QFC Immigration Regulations No.11 of 2006 (QFC Immigration Regulations); this article will aim to provide a brief summary of the proposals which mark the first real attempt to amend the respective Regulations since their inception.
Consultation Paper No.1 of 2016 – proposed amendments to the QFC Immigration Regulations
The QFCA has proposed amendments to both Article 9 (Sponsorship of QFC Employees) and Article 20 (Provisions relating to sponsored QFC Employees).
Article 9 (Sponsorship of QFC Employees)
Article 9(1) currently provides that "QFC Employees must be sponsored in the State by their Employer". Article 13 of the QFC Immigration Regulations provides for situations where a person may work in the QFC without being sponsored by the Employer for e.g. Article 13(3) provides that "a partner of a QFC Employee who subsequently obtains work in the QFC shall remain under the sponsorship of the partner". In order to try and avoid any confusion and enhance clarity, the QFCA have proposed the insertion of the following words (in bold) at the beginning of Article 9(1): "Subject to the provisions of these Regulations, QFC Employees must be sponsored in the State by their Employer".
Article 20 (Provisions relating to sponsored QFC Employees)
Article 20 currently provides that, "…the QFC Employee shall leave the State within thirty (30) days of the termination of the employment for which he was granted the entry visa or residence permit".
The QFCA point out that the problem with this clause is that the period in which the Employee must leave the country is short and may not provide sufficient time for the Employee to manage his/her affairs especially where termination is immediate and without notice. The QFCA have therefore proposed that Article 20 be amended such that the duration of the period for exiting the country post termination is increased to 90 days. This would bring the QFC Immigration Regulations in line with Article 11 of the State Law No.(4) of 2009 regulating the entry and exit of expatriates in Qatar and their residence and sponsorship.
The amended clause would read as follows: "Except as required by these Regulations, the QFC Employee shall leave the State within ninety (90) days from the date of termination of the employment for which he was granted the entry visa or residence permit".
Consultation Paper No.2 of 2016 – proposed amendment to the QFC Employment Regulations
The QFCA has also proposed an amendment to Article 15 of the QFC Employment Regulations with the insertion of the following new paragraph:
Article 15(6) – "An Employer may confer upon Employees who are Qatari nationals benefits, including but not limited to, an increased salary, allowances, pension contributions and other entitlements that may be more than the benefits conferred upon Employees who are not Qatari nationals. For the purposes of these Regulations, conferring such benefits shall not constitute a breach of the prohibition of discrimination".
The rationale behind the amendment is twofold:
- It is felt that the amendment will align the implementation of the Emiri Decision regarding the increase to basic salary, social allowance and pensions of Qatari Nationals, Civil and Military Servants/Pensioners with the Regulations (the "Emiri Decision"); and,
- Enable the QFCA to attract the best Qatari talent as the proposed amendment will enable the QFCA and any other QFC firm to grant extra incentives to Qatari talent. The employment market for Qatari nationals is seen as highly competitive and the QFCA (and any QFC firm) may wish to retain an edge in the market.
It is important to note that the proposed amendment will not impose any extra obligations on the QFCA or any QFC firm, including but not limited to, any obligations in relation to implementing the Emiri Decision, the hiring of Qatari nationals, or generally increasing the pay/salaries of existing or new Qatari employees.
Scope of Consultation
All QFC firms and members have been given until 17 April 2016 to comment on the proposals contained in the Consultation Papers.
It is understood that more extensive amendments to the QFC Employment Regulations have been proposed and will be submitted for public consultation later this year although no specific date has as yet been fixed.