New mandatory health insurance system introduced in Qatar
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In 2022 Qatar issued a new Social Insurance Law, which came into effect on 3 January 2023. The Law (Qatar Law No. 1 of 2022) applies to all employers, employing Qatari (and other GCC) nationals, in either the public or private sector in the State of Qatar, including other non-State “jurisdictions”. In this article, we consider what action employers will need to take and how the changes to retirement and pension entitlements introduced by the Law will impact Qatar employers.
In line with Qatar’s 2030 National Vision which seeks to ensure that Qatar becomes an advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for its people, the Law is intended to, whilst supporting nationals during their retirement, motivate individuals to remain in the labour market for as long as possible.
Whilst the expected implementing regulations of the Law have not as yet been issued, we now understand that the General Retirement and Social Insurance Authority (GRSIA) has completed its system trials and is accepting employer applications for registration.
The Law (Article 7) provides that registration should be completed within 30 days of the Law’s effective date, i.e., by 2 February 2023.
Now that registration is possible, employers should confirm if they employ eligible individuals and register themselves and their employees.
Employers should also review the contracts of employment for eligible employees and/or pertinent policies to determine if they need to be varied in the context of the Law. Employers will need to communicate any changes to their employees, making any necessary accounting adjustments to ensure they have adequately budgeted for their employer contribution costs.
The Law introduces several key changes to the social insurance system in Qatar, which include the following:
The provisions of the Law apply to Qatari and GCC nationals or self-employed individuals (Insureds) on whose behalf a contribution is paid or who pay the contributions themselves in accordance with the Law working in both the private and public sectors.
Previously, social security only applied to Qatari nationals (and some GCC nationals) employed by ministries, public institutions, agencies, joint stock companies and others as determined by the Council of Ministers. However, the scope of the Law is much wider as it also applies to employers in the private sector, which are every natural or juridical person, who hire one or more Qatari (or GCC) nationals on a regular basis in return for a wage.
The Law provides that the private sector includes workers that are subject to the provisions of Labour Law (Qatar Law No. 14 of 2004, as amended) (the Labour Law) or in companies and institutions that are excluded from the Labour Law and have their own staff regulations. The Law may exempt those individuals working for family members; this may become clearer as the registration process continues and/or if and when the implementing regulations are issued.
The scheme is optional for Qatari nationals, (to be specified by the GRSIA), who are already in another social insurance system (whether as an employee or self-employed) and which is appropriate for their estimated income level (the income bracket system).
The monthly contribution rate for Qatari nationals has risen from 15% to 21% of the total of an employee’s basic salary, social allowance and housing allowance. Employers of Qatari nationals in both the private and public sectors are required to contribute 14% and the employee is required to contribute the remaining 7%. We understand that the monthly contribution rate for GCC nationals is based on the applicable minimum monthly pension contribution rate of their home country.
With approval of the Council of Ministers, the Public Treasury of the State may bear a percentage of the employer’s contribution for private sector employers, in accordance with any controls it sets in the future.
The minimum retirement age is now 50 years of age and the minimum required service period to qualify for a pension entitlement has increased from 15 years to 25 years. Gratuity is awarded by the pension fund for employees in the public sector who have contributed to the scheme for 30 years or more at retirement age. Pending Cabinet and the Minister of Labour’s approval, this entitlement may also apply to employees in the private sector in the future.
The minimum monthly amount of pension payable to qualifying individuals in the public sector during retirement is now a minimum of QAR 15,000, and in addition, a housing allowance of up to QAR 6,000 will be paid. These minimum rates may also apply to qualifying individuals employed in the private sector, dependent upon approval of the Cabinet and the Minister.
The Law includes provisions for imprisonment of up to six months and fines to employers of up to QAR 30,000 for failure to make contributions and requiring employees to bear the value of all or any contributions, in violation of the Law.
We understand in the initial period whilst the Law is implemented some flexibility will be provided by the GRSIA.
The Law provides for the transfer of pension payment rights to beneficiaries in the event of the Insured’s or pensioner’s death. Non-Qatari children of Qatari retirees, non-Qatari widows, non-Qatari parents, and non-Qatari siblings can be beneficiaries as well as Qatari nationals.
The Law provides that if a female employee resigns to care for her children and they have special needs, she may keep her pension with no reductions, provided she has an active service period of at least 20 years.
If a pensioner returns to work in the private sector, provided they make no further contributions, their pension will be added to their salary.
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.