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Qatar officially introduces labour reforms

Qatar officially introduces labour reforms

The new reforms grant foreign workers more freedom but have been criticised for not going far enough


Qatar officially announced the end of its kafala sponsorship system for workers on Monday under reforms announced ahead of the 2022 FIFA World cup.

The country’s labour minister Issa bin Saad Al-Jafali Al-Nuaimi said the rules would be abolished effective from December 13.

In their place is a new contract-based system claimed to safeguard workers rights and increase job flexibility.

This gives expats the right to leave the country after notifying their employer for leave or an emergency.

Expats can also leave the country permanently before or after completing their contract after notifying the employer.

However, the employer has the right to reject leave requests, in which case an Exit Permit Grievances Committee will make a decision within three days.

Should applicants receive permission they will be able to leave unless they have defaulted on debt or there is an active criminal case against them.

Foreign workers will also no longer need approval from their existing employer to change jobs if they complete the length of their fixed-term contract.

Expats on open-ended contracts will also be able to change jobs if they complete five years of work.

In addition, obtaining a work visa will now require a copy of a job contract approved by the ministry and employers can be fined up to QAR25,000 per worker for confiscating passports.

Human rights groups have criticised the new reforms saying they do not go far enough and still grant employers too much power.

“This new law may get rid of the word ‘sponsorship’ but it leaves the same basic system intact. It is good that Qatar has accepted that its laws were fuelling abuse, but these inadequate changes will continue to leave workers at the mercy of exploitative bosses,” said James Lynch, deputy director for global issues at Amnesty International.

“Key problems that drive abuse remain. In practice, employers can still stop migrant workers from leaving the country. By making it easier for employers to confiscate workers’ passports, the new law could even make the situation worse for some workers. The tragedy is that many workers think that this new law will be the end of their ordeal.”

In response, Qatari authorities urged observers to allow time to see how effective the new system was.

“We welcome any comment or constructive criticism, and will continue to do so in the future. However, we urge the international community not to draw any definitive conclusions until there has been time to see the new law in action,” Al-Nuaimi said.

Approximately 2.1 million foreign workers in Qatar will be governed under the new system.


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