All Work and No Play: Workplace Leave in Qatar
In this article, our employment experts provide a brief summary of the key provisions regulating domestic work in Qatar.
The Domestic Workers Law1, which took effect on 10 October 2017, introduced a regulatory platform for the protection of domestic workers employed in Qatar. The law provides minimum statutory rights for domestic workers who are excluded from the provisions of the Labour Law2.
Private companies in Qatar have become more aware of their responsibility and the role they play in the employment and treatment of the domestic workers employed by their staff, from a humanitarian, supply chain and also reputational risk perspective. Internal processes have been created to govern and encourage employers to adhere to a minimum standard in the employment and treatment of their domestic workers.
The Domestic Workers Law incorporates certain provisions of the Labour Law, including end of service benefits (payable after 12 months' work from the effective date of this law), workplace injury, recruitment fee restrictions and disputes.
The law sets out the minimum requirements governing the employment of any domestic worker both in terms of their treatment by employers and the tangible rights from which they should benefit.
An employer is obliged to treat domestic workers in a manner which preserves their dignity and physical wellbeing and which does not expose them to physical or physiological harm. Employers should only employ domestic workers between the ages of 18 and 60 years of age. In addition, domestic workers should be provided with proper accommodation, food, medical treatment and sick leave without any charge being levied against them. The worker should also receive weekly (1 day) and annually (3 weeks per year) leave with a return flight ticket once every 2 years.
A domestic worker is defined in the law as someone "who performs house work under the management and supervision of the employee in return for a wage" and goes on to provide examples of the types of occupations that would be captured by this definition, including, driver, nanny, cook and gardener.
The Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour is the competent department for overseeing enforcement of the Domestic Workers Law and the Ministry ultimately has responsibility.
Workers must be provided with a written employment contact (E Government Contract), certified by the Ministry of Labour, which details the type and nature of the job, salary and other conditions. The contract's Arabic text prevails. For some nationalities, the Embassy will have its own standard as well. Human Rights Watch (HRW), which monitors the employment of domestic workers globally recommends that workers sign employment contracts in their native language which are then certified/notarized as being a true representation of the Arabic language version prior to departure from their home country. HRW has documented several instances of contract substitution, in which a worker signs a contract in their native language only to discover that the Arabic version which governs their employment has less favorable terms. For Qatar, this risk, amongst others, is mitigated by the introduction of Qatar Visa Centres (QVC) which currently operate in the countries from which much of Qatar’s domestic workforce are mobilised, eg. Philippines and India. Medical, fingerprints and the E Government Contract execution and attestation is undertaken at the QVC so that when the employees enter Qatar they can be issued with their residence permits within one or two days of arrival and there is certainty regarding their employment terms.”
Whilst the law seeks to address the imbalance of domestic workers rights, it does not afford the same level of statutory protection for employees who fall under the remit of the Labour Law. We have considered several entitlements below.
Basic salary: Whilst the law is silent on minimum standards, Minimum Wage Law3 has set the minimum wage as QAR1,000 per month
Accommodation and food: Employers must provide food and adequate accommodation for workers. Whilst the law is silent on minimum standards, the Minimum Wage Law has set minimum allowances where the accommodation and food provided is not “adequate”, at QAR500 and QAR300 per month, respectively. There is no definition of “adequate”.
Working time: The Domestic Workers Law states that domestic workers are subject to a maximum 10-hour working day while the Labour Law provides for a maximum 8-hour working day and a 48-hour working week. Furthermore, the Domestic Workers Law does not provide specific detail with respect to rest break intervals during the worker's 10-hour working day.
Overtime: The provision for overtime or any associated calculation is not provided for by the law. Additionally, there is nothing to say that workers are free to leave the workplace during their non-working hours.
Sick leave: Whilst the law provides that during periods of sickness domestic workers should not be forced to work, minimum entitlements to a certain number of sick days or indeed whether the domestic worker is entitled to pay during such period is not addressed by the law.
Recruitment fees: Employers are prohibited from making deductions from a worker's pay towards any recruitment fees incurred. The law does not appear to apply this prohibition retrospectively to capture any previous recruitment fees deductions made.
Payment of salary at the end of each month is clearly set out in the provisions of the law; salary must be paid no later than 3 days after the month end. The 3 day grace period is shorter than that under the Labour Law, which requires payment to be made within 7 days. Whilst the law refers to payment by way of electronic bank transfer which should help workers keep a log evidencing details of payment, payment of cash evidenced by signature is also permitted.
The law establishes fines for violations. Where an employment contract has not been executed and put in place, a fine of QAR 5,000 is payable and QAR 10,000 in instances where wages have not been paid on time.
1 Law No. 15 of 2017
2 Law No. 14 of 2004
3 Law No. 17 of 2020 and its implementing regulations
Note: Qatari Laws (save for those issued by, eg. QFC to regulate its own business), are issued in Arabic and there are no official translations, therefore for the purposes of drafting this article Clyde & Co LLP has used its own translations and interpreted the same in the context of Qatari laws, regulation and current market practice. Contact Emma Higham for further information.