Qatar Reiterates’ Its Commitment To Change Kafala Law

Qatar Reiterates’ Its Commitment To Change Kafala Law

March 26, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 08 No.- 18 March. 20 - 2015 (chaitra 6, 2071)

At a time when Qatar has been expressing its commitment to change the law on Kafala, approval of  Law Mandating Electronic Wage Payments for Workers by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s Emir, is very importance.

Qatar’s  Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has approved an amendment to the national labor law involving the payment of workers through direct bank deposits in Feb17.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani issued Law No. (1) of the year 2015, amending some provisions of the Labour Act No. (14 ) of the year 2004.

According to a news published in Doha News. 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:

Other reforms are expected to be introduced sometime this year, according to previous statements from officials.

Qatar has promised to scrap key elements of its controversial labor laws, officials said they would replace the country's "kafala" sponsorship system.  However, altering the rules on "exit visas", which restrict worker .

According to a statement made available by Qatar's embassy in Kathmandu, Qatari Minister for Labor and Social Welfare Abdulla Saleh Mubarak Al Khulaifi has announced that the term 'sponsorship' will be replaced in new legislation and the new system will be based entirely on the job contract that workers sign with their employers.

Addressing a function organized by the Diplomatic Institute of the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Khulaifi said measures to introduce the new system are being taken and the new legislation is being finalized by the Ministry of Interior. "There is absolutely no question of the sponsorship law not being changed, but right now a definite timeframe cannot be given," he said.

Experts in Nepal have lauded the Qatar government's announcement. "The Qatar government has been saying this for long, especially after the horrible working conditions of Nepali migrant workers were exposed in international media. The announcement has to be translated into action. I am skeptical that Qatar will actually implement it," said Ganesh Man Gurung, who holds a PhD in migrant labor.

Minister Khulaifi also said some 55 manpower agencies in Nepal have been banned with the help of Nepal's embassy in Qatar for violating recruitment regulations. "Our ministry's inspection department conducted 51,000 raids on companies to check their compliance with labor law and 200 firms were banned," he said.

According to the Labor Ministry of Qatar, some 9,600 labor complaints were received during 2014. Of these, 6,800 were resolved amicably and 800 forwarded to the courts. "We are committed to improving the labor situation in the country since we are the host of the 2022 FIFA event," the minister said.

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