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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Know your rights: WhatsApp service launched for Qatar’s labour laws

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The new service offers information in six different languages through an automated chatbot.

A new WhatsApp service to provide information on the country’s labour laws and regulations was launched by authorities on Tuesday, in a bid to assist workers to understand their rights. 

Set up by Qatar’s Government Communications Office [GCO] and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs [MADLSA], the service provides information in six different languages, including Arabic, English, Urdu, Hindi, Nepali and Malayalam.

“We were encouraged by the high numbers of people using the GCO’s Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp and saw an opportunity to do something similar for our labour reform programme,” the GCO said.

The WhatsApp service is free-of-charge and provides up-to-date information on Qatar’s labour laws, informs expatriate workers about their rights, including where complaints can be made, and answers questions relating to the country’s work policies through different channels.

Read also: Misleading: Critics slam ‘deceptive’ Guardian report on migrant worker deaths

A chat-bot is available for 24 hours to provide all the required information relating to MADLSA to workers and employers.

“We recognise how important it is to raise awareness of our labour laws and regulations using a range of different channels. By providing this information on a popular platform in multiple languages, we believe the WhatsApp service will become another useful resource to keep people informed across the country,” added the GCO.

Those who wish to access the service can add the number +974 6006 0601 to their contacts and then send a WhatsApp message to launch it. It can also be activated through the link provided by the GCO.

Historic reforms

Over the past year, Qatar introduced several historic reforms to help quell the concerns of employees in the country as well as concerns by rights organisations over mistreatment of migrant workers.

Among the main points of discontent was the lack of awareness for workers’ rights, as well as access to relevant authorities to gain insight and make complaints.

The reforms included removing the ‘No Objection Certificate’ [NOC], dismantling the controversial kafala system completely and providing protection for workers in the country.

Authorities also set a minimum wage of QAR 1,000 , which applies for all workers of all nationalities in both private and governmental sectors, including domestic workers.

“Since 2010, there has been a consistent decline in the mortality rate as a result of the health and safety reforms we have introduced,” the GCO statement added, noting there are strict punishments, including jail time, for business owners who violate safety standards or limits on summer working hours.

Read also: Qatar has come too far to give in to pressure from business community

Though the reforms were considered significant, the government has also admitted “more work needs to be done.”

But despite the significant reforms, exploitation of workers remains a problem in Qatar, with several human rights organisations calling on Doha to ensure laws are implemented on the ground to ensure progress.

More recently, members of the Shura Council were criticised by rights groups for introducing recommendations that would see the reversal of gains made by the labour reforms. 


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