As one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and largest exporters of natural gas, there are plenty of benefits to starting up operations in Qatar. With the influx of interest in the country, businesses need to understand how to manage Qatar labor law.
Similar to many foreign — and domestic — markets, the law of the land is always changing in Qatar. In December 2016, for example, Qatar reformed its work-sponsorship system, known as Kefala. The former program required all foreign nationals to obtain their employer’s consent before traveling abroad or switching jobs. This rule was putting a huge restriction on workers’ rights to leave the country.
Thanks to the reform, workers that completed their contracts are now able to freely change jobs or leave the country. As a result, if their employer tries to restrict travel or employment changes, they can face fines of up to 25,000 riyals ($6,860).
According to the Qatari government, this reform is meant to bring tangible benefits to workers in the country. "The new law is the latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar," Issa al-Nuaimi, the labor minister, said in a statement.
This reform is also very important for international employers because local nationals are highly subsidized by the Qatari government. It’s more commonplace to hire foreign nationals in-country.
Qatar Labor Law: The Basics
When working with foreign nationals, or expats, in Qatar, they are subject to Qatar labor law and must receive certain rights. To start, employees must not work more than six days per week or more than 10 hours per day. Plus, if an employee works more than eight hours in a day, they receive overtime.
Let’s explore more basics for Qatar labor law:
Termination is a big one. Both parties, employer and employee, have the right to mutually terminate a contract in Qatar. But, if an employer terminates employment without cause, they must pay the EOSB (End of Service Benefit), in addition to any salary or accrued benefits. The same requirement is applied if the employee terminates the contract and works out the required notice period.
Employees don't receive EOSB if they are found:
- Breaking the law
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol during working hours
- Assaulting their employer or manager
- Leaving without working out their notice period.
There are also differences if the employment contract is indefinite or definite. If an employee has a contract without a specified end date, they must receive written notification that typically gives them a one month's notice. If an employee is employed for a definite or fixed term, both parties must mutually agree to terminate the employment before the contract term has expired. There doesn’t need to be a mutual agreement if there’s a cause for termination.
Obtaining a Visa
Expats need a sponsorship from their employer before working in Qatar. Visas are transferrable from sponsor to sponsor. The previous sponsor or employer must provide an NOC letter or non-objection certificate.
When you’re considering a move into Qatar, look into your Employer of Record options These third-party services manage compliance for companies by helping them hire employees legally and efficiently in their target market. A global Employer of Record solution can also help your company manage visa sponsorships for expats in Qatar.
There aren’t many mandatory benefits due to foreign nationals in Qatar. However, employers must provide team members with private medical insurance since foreign nationals aren’t covered by the national health system.
Employment contracts in Qatar are preferably filled out in Arabic, although they can be in English. However, labor courts only recognize and acknowledge the Arabic language. In addition, contracts for foreign workers must include language about visa sponsorship, end of service benefit, and repatriation. Work with a local attorney or in-country expert to learn all the specific requirements for Qatar labor contracts.
Exit permits allow foreign nationals to travel in and out of Qatar. As of January 2017, companies and individuals will no longer have to pay to obtain exit permits to leave Qatar, according to the Ministry of Interior. All expats employed in Qatar must get permission from their employer to leave the country, whether for vacation or permanently.
If you seek international business expansion in Qatar, we can help. We offer services like an Employer of Record to help you remain compliant while expanding operations into Qatar. Give our team a call to talk about your strategy!