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Understanding the impact of recent changes to employment and immigration laws in Qatar

  • Legal Development 4 October 2020 4 October 2020
  • Middle East

  • Employment, Pensions & Immigration

Over the last few weeks, we have seen a flurry of legislative activity to amend Qatar's employment and immigration regulatory framework in line with market changes and employment needs. In this article we highlight these key legislative changes and their potential impact.

Labour Law Amendments - Law No. 18/2020 amending Law No. 14/2004 (Labour Law)

1. Probation

The Labour Law permits employers to terminate the employment contract during the employee's probationary period where the employee is found to be incapable of carrying out the work for which he/she was employed for. In order to terminate during probation employers must serve written notice on the employee. This notice period has increased from three days to one month.

In addition, the amendments have introduced the right for employees to also terminate the employment relationship during the probationary period on service of written notice.  

  • In instances where the employee wishes to take up alternative employment, the employee is required to serve one month's prior written notice, and the new employer is required to compensate the exciting employer for recruitment and air ticket fees (as applicable and subject to a maximum of two months' of the employee's basic wage).
  • In instances where the employee wishes to terminate the employment relationship and leave the country, the employee must serve written notice of his/her intention in accordance with the contractual notice requirements, subject to a maximum of two months.

Where parties fail to comply with the notice requirements, the amendments provide that compensation, equivalent to the employee's basic salary for the notice period or the remaining portion thereof, is payable by the party in breach of the notice requirements. Furthermore, in instances where the employee leaves Qatar without complying with the notice requirements, a labour ban, of one year from the date they leave the country, will apply.

2. Restrictive covenants

The Labour Law permits the inclusion of restrictive covenants in the employment contract for a maximum period of time. The maximum period was two years; however, the amending law reduces this period to one year.

3. Termination

The Labour Law sets out the circumstances in which either party may terminate the employment contract by serving notice. The amendments introduced have changed the notice periods. During the first two years' of employment, the party wishing to terminate the contract must serve one month's written notice.  Where the employee has completed two years' of service, the notice period increases to two months. Parties in breach of the statutory notice requirements will be required to pay compensation equivalent to the employee's basic salary for the notice period, or the remaining portion thereof. Employees may also be subject to a labour ban where they leave Qatar without complying with the notice requirements.

4. Termination unrelated to the employment contract

A new provision has been introduced, providing that in instances where the employer is terminating the contract of employment by reason of "economic, structural or other reasons that are not related to the employment contract"; this would include situations where an employer reduces or closes its Qatar operations and as a result has an oversupply of employees.  In addition to the statutory notice requirements set out above, the employer also has an obligation to inform the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (Ministry) 15 days prior to such termination. When notifying the Ministry, the employer is required to provide the reason, number of employees affected and category of workers affected.

5. Employee accommodation

A new provision has been introduced, requiring employers who provide their employees with accommodation to ensure that such accommodation is compliant with conditions determined by the Ministry. Failure to comply with this provision may result in imprisonment for a maximum period of one month and/or a fine ranging between QAR2,000 – QAR100,000, which will be doubled for repeat offences. As at the date of writing this article new conditions had not been published.

6. Penalties

The penalties set out for breaching the Labour Law have been amended and extended and include imprisonment (maximum of one year for failure to comply with the payment of wages requirements) and/or fines ranging between QAR2,000 - QAR100,000.  

Minimum wage - Law No. 17/ 2020 and Decision No. 25 / 2020

Law No. 17/2020 introduces the requirement for a national minimum wage to be prescribed by the Minister and reviewed once on an annual basis, and Decision No. 25 / 2020 sets the minimum wage at QAR1,000. The minimum wage applies to all workers and domestic workers, and employers are required to adjust employee pay in line with the minimum wage in instances where their salary falls below such minimum.

In addition minimum monthly allowances of QAR500 for accommodation and QAR300 for food must be provided where the employer does not make adequate provision.

Immigration Law Amendments - Law No. 19 of 2020 and Decision No. 51 of 2020

Recent changes to the immigration law have effectively removed the requirement to obtain an exit permit to leave the country. 

In addition, employees wishing to change jobs before the end of the term of their employment contract no longer need to obtain a no objection certificate (i.e. permission) from their existing employers (but must comply with the notice provisions under the Labour Law). 

Lastly, changes to the law now permit expatriate employees to change employment within 90 days from the date their residence permit expires.

Conclusion

The recent changes clearly highlight Qatar's shift towards allowing greater labour mobility, transparency and establishing a more balanced employment relationship. 

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. If you would like further information please contact Emma Higham (emma.higham@clydeco.com).

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