Overview of Qatar’s labour reforms
Since 2018, the ILO has been supporting the Government of Qatar in adopting a comprehensive and ambitious package of labour reforms. The measures taken have already improved the working and living conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers, and additional efforts are needed to ensure that all workers can benefit. Below is a summary of the progress made to date.
- The most problematic and restrictive elements of the kafala (sponsorship) system were dismantled, including removing the requirements for workers to obtain exit permits to leave the country, and no-objection certificates to change employers.
- Between 1 November 2020 and 31 August 2022, over 348,500 workers applications to change jobs have been approved by the Ministry of Labour.
- Urgent priorities: Many workers still face challenges in changing jobs. This is partly due to misinformation on the procedures and regulations around labour mobility. There are also many cases of employers retaliating against workers wishing to change jobs. There is also a need to communicate how the kafala reforms are also beneficial for enterprises and the economy as a whole.
Minimum wage and wage protection
- A non-discriminatory minimum wage came into force in March 2021, and 280,000 workers, or 13% of the workforce, saw their basic wage rise. The law includes minimum thresholds for basic wage, food and accommodation, totalling QR 1,800 or USD 500. In addition, a Minimum Wage Commission was established to monitor its impact.
- The Wage Protection System (WPS) monitors the payment of all workers in the private sector. The WPS was enhanced following a comprehensive independent assessment.
- The Worker’s Support and Insurance Fund, established in 2019, has disbursed over USD 350m to workers.
- Urgent priorities: There are still gaps regarding timely payment of wages. It is recorded that many companies have not paid their workers for months.
Access to justice
- The online complaints platform has increased workers’ access to the Ministry of Labour. Between October 2021 and October 2022, the Ministry of Labour received 34,425 complaints.
- Urgent priorities: The time it takes for a worker to receive a court date and to enforce a court ruling can be several months. This is in part due to the large backlog that was created when the courts did not meet due to COVID-19 restrictions. It is imperative to reduce the time from when a worker lodges a complaint until they receive their due wages and benefits.
- For the first time in the Gulf region, migrant workers are being elected as representatives in the workplace. As of October 2022, 600 workers are representing their colleagues in over 70 enterprises (with a total workforce of over 50,000 employees). Platforms have been established to elevate the priorities and discussions that emerge from individual joint committees to the main contractor level, at the sectoral level and at the national level. A study is being launched to explore the possibility of making joint committees mandatory for companies of a certain size.
- Staff of five global union federations are based in Doha, working as Community Liaison Officers (CLOs). They reach out to workers in different sectors, to gather complaints to refer to the Ministry of Labour, and to disseminate information and train community leaders. There are regular events organized by the global unions that bring workers together with representatives from the MOL.
- Urgent priorities: There is a need to expand the number of community leaders, and formalize their role in helping workers to resolve disputes.
Occupational safety and health
- An Occupational Safety and Health Policy was adopted by the MOL and the Ministry of Public Health to ensure more strategic, coordinated and data-driven approaches.
- A ground-breaking report was published identifying the gaps in how data on occupational injuries, both fatal and non-fatal, is collected by the Qatari authorities. The report also presents the most comprehensive data available in 2020 on occupational injuries and deaths, disaggregated by cause of injury, nationality, age, sex and sector of work. The MOL and MOPH are working on a number of the recommendations from the report.
- New legislation was adopted to better protect workers from heat stress during the summer months, with the expansion of summertime working hours during which outdoor work is prohibited. There is also a threshold for stopping outdoor work, regardless of the time of day or year.
- Urgent priorities: Data collection and analysis of work-related injuries needs to be improved, including through more investigations of deaths that may be work-related but that are not recorded as such. More training for labour inspectors and awareness raising among workers and employers is needed to prevent occupational injuries.
- To supplement the protections in the Domestic Workers Law, a new standard employment contract for domestic workers was adopted. Awareness raising materials on domestic workers’ rights under the Law have been disseminated, and networks of domestic workers have been established.
- Urgent priorities: It is critical to ensure that domestic workers are able to exercise their rights, including around working time and a day off. Having time off is not only important for rest and recreation, but also to lodge any potential grievances with the MOL or their embassy.
- Labour inspectors are receiving training on various subjects (including labour inspection skills; labour law; and forced labour and trafficking).
- Urgent priorities: Labour inspection campaigns are planned on strategic priorities, including on the top causes of severe injuries, accident notification, heat stress, etc.
- 14 Qatar Visa Centers were established in countries of origin, which have reduced contract deception and substitution.
- Models of fair recruitment have been piloted, and lessons learned disseminated widely. Due diligence in recruitment has been promoted through a hospitality sector working group, with public clients as part of public procurement, and through other engagements with the private sector.
- Urgent priorities: Improving procedures and enforcement to promote fair recruitment is a key area of focus. Using the lessons learned and recommendations, there is a need to promote fair recruitment practices within the operations of the private and public sectors.