Employees in Qatar should soon have an easier and quicker way to pursue grievances against their bosses, after the Emir approved a new law this week.
The legislation, Labor Law No. 13 of 2017, establishes a Labor Dispute Resolution Committee that allows employees to circumvent the court system.
It also amends some provisions of previous iterations of the labor law from 2004 and 1990.
Examples of complaints heard by the committee will include breach of contract or failure to provide a valid RP.
Notably however, the committee won’t be for everyone, since not all workers in Qatar are protected under the Labor Law.
Those who are exempt include employees at government ministries and other public bodies, and those working for Qatar Petroleum and its subsidiaries, according to Article 3 of the 2004 law, which was amended in 2009.
Domestic staff such as household workers, drivers and gardeners are also not covered under this law.
But new legislation is in the works to “regulate” the relationship between these workers and their employers.
How to complain
The committee will operate under Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADLSA).
It aims to make decisions on grievances within three weeks of when they were filed.
However, before a complaint reaches the new committee, workers should first try to address their issues with their employer directly.
If that doesn’t work, the employee can escalate the problem to the ministry’s Labor Department, according to Al Sharq which has published the full details of the new law in Arabic.
The Labor Dispute Resolution Committee will then step in if both previous steps fail to get a result.
That said, an employee can go directly to the committee if they have been terminated in what they feel is an arbitrary way.
If the panel finds a worker was dismissed illegally, the employee can be reinstated and awarded all payments owed to them. Compensation could also be ordered to be paid to the worker.
The committee’s decision would be immediately binding.
The committee will be chaired by a judge from the court of first instance who is chosen by the Supreme Judicial Council.
Two other members will be nominated by the Labor Ministry, one of which should have a background in accounting.
The secretariat of the committee will comprise at least one employee from labor ministry, and the ministry is tasked with deciding the committee’s rules, procedures and mechanisms for awarding decisions and enforcing them.
The committee will be independent, and will have sole discretion over its decisions.
Parties will have a right to appeal a decision made by the committee. They must lodge their dissent with the Court of Appeal within 15 days from the date of the decision.
The Court of Appeal then has 30 days to make a decision, from the date of the first hearing there, the new law states.
While new grievances will only be heard through the committee, complaints that have already been lodged by workers will continue to be processed through the courts.
The new committee was first publicly mooted last October, when the State Cabinet approved the planned changes to the Labor Law.
In March this year, it then approved further changes to the draft law, before it went to the Advisory (Shura) Council.
The committee and changes to the law have been brought in to try to provide quicker justice to workers who have been wronged by their employers.
Under the previous system, workers with labor grievances usually approached their embassy.
Officials there often mediated with the employer to try to reach a solution, but if that failed workers were advised to file a complaint with the labor ministry.
That lead to a meeting between the worker and their employer.
However, some workers who previously complained about their bosses reported retaliation.
This can come in the form of docked pay, employers failing to renew their Residency Permits (RP) or removing them from company accommodation, UN labor officials noted.
Qatar’s authorities have previously tried to make it easier for individuals to seek redress, and a 2014 report found that 90 percent of the cases lodged were resolved at this stage.
However, those that weren’t had to go through the court system.
This can be a long, expensive process for workers, particularly for those had been sacked or abandoned by their employers.