Updated on Feb. 19 with more details about the amended legislation
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s Emir, has approved an amendment to the national labor law involving the payment of workers through direct bank deposits.
At 8:40pm on Wednesday, Qatar News Agency posted the following bulletin:
Doha, February 18 (QNA) – HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani issued today Law No. (1) of the year 2015, amending some provisions of the Labour Act No. (14 ) of the year 2004.
The law is to be enforced and be published in the Official Gazette.(QNA)
No further details were released by QNA last night, prompting a flurry of speculation (and raised hopes) that the amendments involved changes to the kafala sponsorship system.
But local newspapers reported this morning that the legislation specifically involved the payment of workers in Qatar.
Under the new provisions, companies will be required to pay their employees through direct bank transfers, making it easier for expats and the government to scrutinize and document any late or non-existing payments.
Employees should be paid in Qatari currency once a month, or for some category of workers, every two weeks.
According to the full text of the amendments, which was published by Al Arab, firms will be given a six-month grace period to follow the new rules, which could be extended further by Qatar’s Minister for Labour and Social Affairs.
Once that period is over, employers in violation of the amendment could face jail time of up to one month and fines of QR2,000 to QR6,000.
Not being paid on time or at all by their employers are among the top complaints of workers in Qatar. Electronic salary transfers are one way the nation can tackle these abuses, and human rights’ organizations have been urging Qatar to adopt it.
Kafala changes pending
Bank salary transfers are part of a package of labor reforms that Qatar has been working to implement for the past several months.
Last May, authorities also pledged to make it easier for expats to change jobs and leave the country. Over the past nine months, those amendments to the labor law have been tied up in consultative meetings.
To the disappointment of some, the proposed changes stopped short of abolishing the much-criticized no objection certificate requirement to switch employers and exit permit system that regulates sponsored employees’ ability to exit Qatar.
While waiting for more information about yesterday’s announcement, several human rights advocates speculated that the only changes would involve mandating electronic salary transfers:
@jpmlynch that's correct as I understand it. Ministry of Interior reforms on kafala/exit visa still with shura council
— Nicholas McGeehan (@NcGeehan) February 18, 2015
Other reforms are expected to be introduced sometime this year, according to previous statements from officials.