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.
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.