On Tuesday 9 February 2016, the majority of employees in Qatar celebrated the 5th annual National Sports Day; an official paid public holiday which is celebrated on the second Tuesday of February in each year. National Sports Day was introduced via Emiri Decree No. (80) of 2011 (Decree).

The Decree provides that Ministries, Government Departments, Public Sector Institutions, including the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), as well as other organisations in the private sector shall organise sporting and interactive activities on this day for their employees to participate in. Employees should be able to participate in activities in a way which suits their age and condition. The aim of National Sports Day is to raise awareness of the importance of sports and physical activity and the key role it can play in improving the quality of life of individuals, a workforce and society as a whole.

In the last 4 years, organisations in Qatar have embraced this initiative such that now a diverse range of sporting activities aimed at a wide demographic take place throughout the country.   

Sport is integral to Qatar's national vision. The country's success in hosting the 2006 Asian Games, being awarded the World Athletics Championships in 2019 and culminating in being awarded the host country for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is testament to Qatar's commitment to sport.

National Sports Day brings the total of public holidays enjoyed by the majority of Qatar's workforce to 11. These public holidays are set out in the Qatar Labour Law, No.(14) of 2004, the provisions of which govern the employment of most of Qatar's ex-patriate workforce.  The public holidays are:

  • Eid Al Fitr, 3 working days
  • Eid Al Adha, 3 working days
  • National Day, one working day, being 18 December (formerly the 03 September until 2008
  • 3 "Floating" working days which the employer will determine for all employees.

Note: Employees working in the banking sector, including the QFC, have an additional bank holiday on the first Sunday in March and the employees of Qatari Ministries and other government agencies enjoy extended Eid holidays.

It is important for employers to note, that in Qatar, unlike in some other GCC jurisdictions, if a public holiday falls on a rest day, being Friday where an employee works a 6 day week or a Friday or Saturday where the employee works a 5 day week, a day off in lieu should be given. In addition, where an employee must work on a public holiday, the overtime provisions of the Labour Law will apply, i.e. the employee will be compensated as if he or she had worked on a rest day, being a day in lieu and a payment equal to 100% of total pay (i.e. basic pay plus allowances such as accommodation and transport etc) or 150% of basic pay. 

Note: All Qatari Laws (save for those issued by the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) to regulate its own internal business) are issued in Arabic and there are no official translations, therefore for the purpose of drafting this article we have used our own translation and interpreted the same in the context of Qatari laws and regulations.