The Ministry Of Administrative Development, Labour, and Social Affairs [MADSLA] has announced major changes in the country’s labour law, allowing migrant workers to change jobs without their employer’s permission and introducing a non-discriminatory minimum wage.
Following several reports of human rights abuses by different rights groups, Qatar’s ministry of labour announced major new changes in the country’s labour market on Sunday, a step described as one of its kind in the MENA region.
The changes will now allow migrant workers to change jobs before the end of their contract without first having to obtain a ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) from their employer, dismantling the controversial kafala system completely and providing protection for workers in the country.
In addition, the new legislation has set a minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals (QAR), which will enter into force six months after the law’s publication in the Official Gazette. This will apply for all workers of all nationalities in both, private and governmental sectors, including domestic workers.
The law states that before terminating an employment contract and changing jobs, workers are required to provide at least one month’s written notice if they have worked with the employer for two years or less, or two months’ notice if they have worked with the employer for a period more than that.
In order to ensure decent living standards for workers, the legislation stipulates that employers pay allowances of at least QAR 300 and QAR 500 to cover costs of food and housing respectively, in case these are not already provided for the workers. If these allowances are provided then the minimum take home pay is now set at QAR 1,000.
Complementing Qatar’s efforts to protect employers and employees interests the Ministry took a major step in its labour reform program introducing a non-discriminatory minimum wage & removing the NOC requirement to change jobs for employees
— وزارة التنمية والعمل (@ADLSAQa) August 30, 2020
The ‘non-discriminatory’ move is the first of its kind in the Middle East, a statement by the ministry, declared, noting the minimum wage was set following extensive consultations with a specialised national committee composed of relevant authorities in Qatar.
Authorities have also said they will be working with employers to update all employment contracts where workers currently earn less than the amount established by the new law, ensuring that pay cheques reflect new legislation within six months from now.
“By introducing these significant changes, Qatar has delivered on a commitment. One that will give workers more freedom and protection, and employers more choice,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General. “We are witnessing what can be achieved when governments, workers and employers work together with the ILO to promote decent work for all.”
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said, “This is very good news for migrant workers in Qatar. The leadership shown by Qatar in dismantling the kafala system and introducing a minimum wage is long-awaited news for all workers. The ITUC stands ready to support the Government of Qatar in the implementation of this historic move, to ensure all workers are aware of the new rules and benefit from them. Other countries in the region should follow Qatar’s example.”
In order to ensure all sectors are complying with the minimum wage, the government is set to enhance the detection of violations, increase inspectors, and introduce swifter and harsher penalties, which will help roughly 400,000 workers in the private sector alone.
The announcement is part of Qatar’s 2030 National Vision of protecting workers and ensuring their safety, a step described by Yousuf Mohamed Al Othman Fakhroo, Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, as a major milestone for the country.