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Monday, September 20, 2021

Qatar introduces new law to protect workers from summer heat

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The new decision replaces Resolution No. (16) issued in 2007 and offers stronger protection for workers from heat stress.

Qatar has adopted a new set of regulations to provide further protection for workers during the harsh summer period, the ministry of labour has announced.

The ministerial decision includes expanding prohibited outdoor summertime working hours by six weeks and introducing annual health checks for workers to ensure their safety and well-being during their employment.

A mandatory risk assessment must also be prepared by enterprises.

The new decision, which comes to force imminently, aims to reduce the risk of heat stress that workers are exposed to during the summer period, ADLSA explained.

“We are confident that the measures the new Ministerial Decision introduces will help further mitigate the risk of heat stress for workers, which is our health and safety priority during the summer months,” said Mohammed Al Obaidly, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA).

Read also: Qatar swiftly intervenes to resolve salary issues after workers’ protest

Per the new rules, workers will now be prohibited to work outside between 10am and 3:30pm starting from June 1 and up until September 15 every year, the ministry said in a statement.

This replaces earlier legislation issued in 2007 that set the prohibited outdoor summertime working hours from 11:30am to 3:00pm between June 15 until August 31.

“The ministry announces the implementation of resolution (17) of 2021 to protect workers from the risks of heat stress during summer starting from 1st of June to 15th of September of every year, restricting outdoors work from 10 am to 3:30 pm,” the Ministry of Administrative Development Labor and Social Affairs [ADLSA] said in a tweet.

In addition, the new resolution states that all work must stop if the wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT) rises beyond 32.1 °C in a particular workplace, regardless of the time. The index takes into consideration the ambient temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and wind speed.

This means that workers will not be allowed to work during extremely hot weather, even if it falls outside the set prohibited summertime hours.

“The new Ministerial Decision is an example of evidence-based policy-making, drawing on field research on the environmental conditions and the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies,” said Max Tuñón, from the ILO Project Office in Doha.

Read also: Qatar to establish new platform for workers’ complaints

Employers are required to place the new working schedules in a visible accessible location for workers to view with ease, the ministry emphasised, adding that labour inspectors will also observe the schedule upon inspection visits.

For safety reasons, the decision includes providing a training session on how to deal with heat stress during May of each year, in addition to free drinking water and shaded rest spaces throughout the work period.

Workers must also be provided with personal protective equipment suitable for hot weather, including light, loose-fitting clothing, and receive annual free medical examinations to diagnose and manage chronic diseases that may contribute to the risk of heat stress.

Paramedics and occupational safety and health supervisors in the workplace must be trained to provide directions and first aid to workers, the ministry added.

Read also: ILO urges improved safety policies to tackle future health crises for workers.

Several representatives from workers’ and employers’ organisations welcomed the new legislation, praising the government’s efforts to protect health and safety for workers nationwide.

“The occupational safety and health of all workers is a priority for employers. We support measures to mitigate the risk of heat stress among workers, ensuring protection and proper working conditions for everyone. And we hope that these new tools and regulations provide the necessary clarity to employers to prevent such incidents”, said Roberto Suárez, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE).

Sharon Barrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said: “We welcome this new legislation and commend the Government of Qatar for its continued efforts to protect workers’ health and safety at work.

“With climate change negatively impacting workers worldwide, we should expect more countries to adopt heat stress legislation in the near future.”

In recent years, the government has been heavily engaged in implementing new laws and regulations to ensure workers’ safety ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The latest move was the launch of a unified platform to allow for workers’ complaints and disputes, allowing employees or workers to file a complaint by logging in through the official authentication system.

The first phase of the unified platform will be suitable for all browsers used for computers, tablets and smartphones and will allow employees, private sector staff and domestic workers to submit complaints online.

The second phase of the platform is set to include additional forms of complaints related to recruitment offices, nurseries, as well as complaints from a facility or an employer against the employee.

Historic labour reforms

Last year, Qatar introduced the region’s first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage in what was considered part of a major ‘historic labour reform’ programme.

In addition to the minimum monthly basic wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals QR (275 USD), the new legislation stipulates that employers must pay allowances of at least QR 300 for food and QR 500 for housing, should employers not provide workers with these directly.

As part of the major labour reform agenda, Qatar has drastically enhanced monitoring across the board to detect violations, enacting swifter penalties and further strengthening the capacity of labour inspectors, according to an announcement made by the Government Communications Office (GCO).

Employers who pay their staff less than the minimum wage will face one-year in jail and a QR 10,000 fine.

Read also: Qatar says labour reforms ‘far from complete’ following Amnesty ‘Reality Check’ migrant report

These labour reforms also include the dismantling of the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system, becoming the first country in the region to do so.

Workers are no longer required to obtain an exit permit to leave the country, or a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to request permission from former employers to change jobs.

In an exclusive interview with Doha News last month, senior International Labour Organisation (ILO) official, Houtan Homayounpour said more work needs to be done to ensure the protection of workers in Qatar, though authorities should be recognised for the work that has gone into making these changes.


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