As Qatar prepares to host one of the biggest sporting events in the world, the Fifa  World Cup 2022, the working conditions of expatriate workers is a priority.  Human Development is one of the five pillars of Qatar’s  National Vision 2030 and the targeted participation of  Qatar’s expatriate workforce together with the recruitment  of the right mix of that workforce, the protection of their  rights, securing their safety and retaining those individuals  who are outstanding is an integral part of the vision. 

In order to provide a framework within which this  workforce structure can be developed, a growing number  of Qatari Government and quasi-Government entities  have put, and are putting, in place expatriate worker  employment charters with which all stakeholders and  interested parties are obliged to comply. In 2012 the Qatar  Foundation (QF) adopted its comprehensive Migrant  Workers’ Charter (MWC) and more recently the Qatari  2022 Supreme Committee, now renamed the Supreme  Committee for Delivery and Legacy, issued a workers’  charter aimed at creating a safe working environment for  the thousands of expatriate workers who are and will be  employed on the various World Cup projects. This article  focuses on the scope and application of the MWC.

Scope and application 

The material objective of the MWC is the effective  execution of a comprehensive set of standards that seeks  to guarantee the rights of workers at all stages of the  migration cycle, from the moment they are recruited until  they are repatriated to their home countries or to any other  country as may be agreed between the worker and their  employer. In addition, and to augment the MWC, QF has  issued Mandatory Welfare Standards (“MWS”) which set  out the minimum mandatory requirements with respect  to recruitment, living and working conditions and general  treatment of workers. 

Pursuant to the MWS, all construction and other activities  under QF projects must be carried out in line with the  requirements set out in the Qatari laws and the MWS. The  material Qatari laws include the Immigration Law and  the Labour Law, and their executive regulations which are  listed and form an annex to the MWS. 

The MWS is applicable to all workers of QF contractors and  sub-contractors, regardless of whether they were recruited  for QF projects. Further, the MWS constitutes an integral  part of the main contract entered into with a contractor  with effect from the date the contract was awarded and  requires that all contractors subsequently ensure that  Qatari laws and the MWS are adherred to by all their  sub-contractors. 

The MWS provides that QF contractors and the subcontractors must adhere to ethical standards both in the  recruitment process and in the deployment of the workers  in Qatar. For example, workers must not be charged for  any recruitment or placement fees and they must be  informed prior to their deployment to Qatar, in a language  they understand, of the terms and conditions of their  employment, and the health and safety risks of their work. 

Further, the terms of the employment contract which  workers sign on their arrival in Qatar must be identical  to the terms of their original offer of employment and  meet the minimum requirements set out in Qatari laws  and the MWS. The employment contract must clearly  specify the rights and responsibilities of the worker and  the employer, respectively, with regard to wages, hours of  work (including regular hours and overtime requirements)  days off and annual leave, responsibilities, notice period  and termination provisions for both parties, disciplinary  procedures as well as dispute settlement procedures. 

The MWS also provides that workers must hold valid work  and residence permits in accordance with Qatari law and  that they shall keep possession of their passports and other  personal documents throughout their employment. 

In addition, employers must provide comprehensive  medical insurance to the workers, appropriate  accommodation as well as training on the necessary skills  required to carry out their work. Notably, the issuance of  the MWC included the establishment of a fully functional  Workers’ Welfare Department, which falls under the scope  of QF Health, Safety, Security and Environment Directorate.  The Department is mandated, on behalf of QF, to act as  a regulatory body within QF, instituting fair employment  standards and ensuring that all rules and protocols are  being followed, while pushing for continuous improvement  and development.

Summary 

The MWC is based upon a holistic and principled approach  that combines Qatari Labour Law and international best  practice in order to set an exemplary model for the ethical  treatment of workers by guaranteeing that all contractors  and sub-contractors, such as labour suppliers, labour  agencies, and other service providers, adhere to strict  regulations and comply with guidelines as part of their  contracts with QF. By establishing a designated department,  QF seeks to ensure that its rules and protocols are being  followed by stakeholders and interested parties and that  MWS is enforced from a practical standpoint. 

Note: Qatari Laws (save for those issued by the QFC to regulate  internal business) are issued in Arabic and there are no official  translations. For the purposes of drafting this article, we have used  our own translations and have interpreted these in the context of  Qatari regulation and current market practice.