The rules governing the employment of individuals working in Qatar are principally governed by Law No. (14) of 2004 (Labour Law). The Ministry of Labour and the Labour Department are the main agencies of administration.
The Labour Law excludes the workers of Qatar Petroleum and its corporate establishments whose employment is governed by special laws; it also excludes Government/ public workers whose employment is governed by the provisions of Law No.(8) of 2009, (Human Resources Law). In addition members of the armed forces, the Police, casual, domestic and agricultural workers and dependants are excluded by the Labour Law. Finally, mention should be made of the Qatar Financial Centre and the Science and Technology Park, both of which each have their own employment regulations.
This “nutshell” will focus on the Labour Law. However, it would be our pleasure to advise in more detail on the various other employment laws, regulations, policies, as they relate to excluded workers.
Issues arising on hiring individuals
Immigration rules in Qatar are covered by Law No. (4) of 2009 (Immigration Law) which sets out regulations under which expatriates may enter, exit, work and reside in Qatar. The Ministry of Interior and the Immigration Department are the main agencies of administration. The law defines an expatriate as any individual entering Qatar who is not a Qatari national. Unless an individual is a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) national, he or she must be sponsored by either a Qatari national, an entity registered to undertake business in Qatar or a resident family member on whom the individual is dependent. This arrangement does not lend itself to short term or casual employment arrangements.
Currently the nationals of some 33 countries, including Britain, America, Australia and Japan, can enter Qatar on an on-arrival visa; other nationalities may enter and represent their companies or countries on business visas which must be applied for by individuals or entities authorised by the Immigration Department.
ONLY a holder of a valid work permit may work lawfully in Qatar. Work permits may only be applied for by an individual or entity registered with the employment authorities. These applicants are known as the worker’s sponsor. Sponsorship and immigration are interlinked in Qatar. Once a Qatari entity has been issued with an immigration card it may register with the Labour Department and submit block visa applications. A block visa application should state the gender, nationality and job title of the workers a Qatari entity wants to employ. Once the block visa allocation has been approved by the Labour Department passport copies and appropriate education certificates should be submitted to the Immigration Department in order for each worker to be issued with their work permit; then the worker can proceed for residency once that worker has been relocated to Qatar at the expense of the sponsor. It must be the worker’s sponsor who applies for residency. Dual residency is permitted by discretion in Qatar.
Where an individual holds a valid Qatari residence permit he or she can apply to sponsor their spouses and dependent family members. The resident will have to demonstrate to the immigration authorities that he or she is appropriately employed with sufficient funds to do so, ie. currently earns at least QAR 10,000 per month (some USD 2,700). Holders of residence permits may work but ONLY for their sponsors. Contract working for other third parites is not permitted. Individuals holding family residencies do not automatically have the right to work and must apply for, and be issued with, work permits to work, subject to some exceptions, e.g. the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC). Part time workers can work, subject to the permission of their sponsor/employer, for a Qatari national or an entity registered to undertake business in Qatar.
It is important to note that there are laws and regulations in place to encourage the employment of nationals, known as Qatarisation. Specific sectors including banking are subject to quota requirements to employ Qatari nationals and some organisations have self imposed quotas, eg. Qatar Foundation, but otherwise the Labour Department will review new block visa applications on an application by application basis.
During the period of time in which individuals reside in Qatar they will have a sponsor for the purposes of their residency who will be legally responsible for them, including obtaining and renewing residence permits and associated registrations.
Such a sponsor will not be liable financially for any of the obligations of the individuals it sponsors unless it specifically agrees to guarantee such obligations.
Strictly speaking only 100% Qatari owned entities and Qatari nationals holding valid manpower licences may undertake the business of recruitment. In practise many joint venture companies with foreign ownership undertake the business of recruitment without a licence as human resources consultants.
Issues arising during the employment relationship
The Labour Law provides for a maximum working week of 48 hours, being either 8 hours a day given a normal Qatar working week is 6 days; with Friday being the weekly day of paid rest. In Ramadan this is reduced to a maximum of 6 hours a day. Workers who are not in a position of responsibility, ie. individuals without authority over other workers, are entitled to overtime paid in accordance with statutory rates set according to whether overtime is completed on a normal working day, a Friday, during night time or on a public holiday. The actual working hours of a worker should not exceed 10 hours a day.
Wages and leave
There is no minimum wage in Qatar, although the Labour Law does stipulate that the Emir can set one. Some Embassies, eg. Philippine Embassy, publish recommended minimum wage information.
Paid annual leave: a worker who has completed one continuous year of service is entitled to annual leave with pay. Workers who have been employed for less than five years will receive no less than three weeks’ annual paid leave and those who have been in service for longer than five years will be entitled to no less than four weeks’ annual paid leave.
Sick leave: a worker is entitled to sick leave after he or she has completed three months’ service. A worker will be paid his or her full salary if the sick leave does not exceed two weeks. If the sick leave extends past two weeks then the worker shall be paid half of his or her wage for a further four weeks. Any extension of sick leave beyond this period will be without pay until the worker resumes work, resigns or his or her service is terminated for health reasons. After the twelfth week the employer may terminate the worker’s employment.
Haj leave: a Muslim worker is entitled to unpaid leave, not exceeding two weeks, to go to pilgrimage once during the period of his service dependant on how such leave is allocated internally from time to time.
Maternity leave: female workers are entitled to 50 days’ paid maternity leave if they have been in continuous employment for a year when they give birth.
The Labour Law provides that where an entity employs more than 100 Qatari workers, a single worker’s committee may be formed by those Qatari workers. Striking is permitted under certain circumstances but, amongst other things, the exercise of political or religious activities, and the printing and dissemination of materials insulting the State, etc. is prohibited. Workers’ Committees should publish their policies and regulations according to certain guidelines.
Isues arising on termination of employment relationship
Residency may be transferred between sponsors, subject to the discretion of the Immigration Department. In order to transfer sponsorship an individual must hold a residence permit which has been valid for more than 12 months, a sponsor’s letter of no objection (NOC) and a “clean” Police Report. Where no NOC is provided (there is no obligation to provide and no right of provision) an individual may not work in Qatar, i.e. be sponsored and employed in Qatar, for a period of two years, although appeals can be made to the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Interior. Where individuals do not have a residence permit which has been valid for more than 12 months, provided they hold an NOC, they must leave Qatar and re-enter on either a visit or business visa or a work permit in order for their new sponsors to be in a position to apply for a residence permit.
Notice: Under the Labour Law if the service contract is of an indefinite duration either the employer or the worker may terminate it without giving any reasons; notification periods will be dependent on the length of service and the terms of the contract. The employer should pay the worker all his or her dues for the notice period if the worker continues to work normally during this period. If the contract is terminated without observing notice periods, the party (usually the employer) terminating the contract may be obliged to pay compensation.
Gross misconduct and summary dismissal: The Labour Law (Art 61) sets out a list of circumstances under which the employer can terminate the worker’s employment without notice or the payment of End of Service Benefits (EOSB) due to the actions of the worker. The Labour Law also provides (Art 51) for a similar action under which workers can terminate without notice but still receive EOSB.
End of Service Benefits (EOSB)
The Labour Law (Art 54) provides, in addition to the other monies payable to workers when their employment terminates, that workers must be paid EOSB. EOSB must equal at least three weeks’ salary for each full year the worker has worked; part years are calculated pro rata and ESOB is only payable once the worker has completed his or her first full year of employment. EOSB cannot be contracted out of per se.
Workers require an exit permit to leave Qatar. Exit permits can be issued for a single exit; the holders of residence permits may be issued with multi-exit visas at the sponsor’s discretion. If a worker wishes to leave Qatar while still holding a work permit, ie. before a residence permit is issued, he or she must obtain a re-entry visa before leaving to avoid automatic cancellation of their work permit.