Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is exploring options to ensure workers rights

Qatar’s labour market is different from all over the world, yet the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is exploring “all options” to ensure the rights of workers, including their aspirations for forming associations, a senior official has said.

Answering a question during yesterday’s press conference whether workers would get the right to form unions in the proposed amendments to the new law, Ali Ahmad al-Khulaifi, director of the Planning and Quality Department at the Ministry of  Labour and Social Affairs,  said Qatar was already doing all it could to protect the rights of workers.

“Qatar’s labour market is different from other markets because it is largely comprised of expatriate workers”

He said that in such a “challenging environment” the ministry wanted firstly to ensure the rights of all workers in the country and were ready to explore all options, including their aspirations to form associations.

Salih Saeed al-Sahwi, Labour Relations Department manager at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, said  the government wanted to provide more safeguards to workers and protect their rights.

According to an official statement released to the media yesterday, the proposed labour law amendments would be in line with Qatar’s commitment to social development as outlined in the Qatar National Vision 2030.

The statement said that the State of Qatar would work closely with internal and external stakeholders in the coming months to strengthen protection for both  employers and employees in Qatar “to ensure sustainable reform”.

When the new law goes into effect, the illegal practice of passport confiscation will be addressed by an increase of the current penalty of a maximum of QR10,000 to upto QR50,000 for employers who confiscate an employee’s passport.

This penalty will be imposed per conviction for every passport confiscated to act as a powerful deterrent to this illegal practice. For example, if an employee has been found to have confiscated 10 passports, the court can sentence the employer a fine of upto QR500,000.

One of the reforms proposed in the existing labour law is regarding payment of wages electronically to workers to ensure transparency, monitoring and timely payment.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs  is also continuing to hire and train labour inspectors with a target of 300  by end of the year.

These inspectors have judicial powers to issue penalties for violations related to workers’ accommodation, work sites and occupational health and safety. The Labour Ministry  will sign a technical co-operation agreement with the ILO this year to further support enforcement mechanisms.

The statement added that  Qatar would be making regular announcements in the coming months to provide further details on the implementation of the new legislation and regular updates on reform mechanisms being put in to place.

The state would be working closely with local and international companies over the coming months to provide support during this transition period, it was pointed out.

Officials at the press conference, however, did not give any timeframe when the amendments to the law would be ratified and come into force.  They  stressed that the amended law would have to go through its normal legislative cycle, including evaluation by its legislative branch, the Shura Council and financial entities such as the Chamber of Commerce before it was referred back to the government for a final approval.