Mubarak Bin Abdullah Al Sulaiti, Chairman, Al Sulaiti Law Firm: Viewpoint

Mubarak Bin Abdullah Al Sulaiti, Chairman, Al Sulaiti Law Firm

Viewpoint: Mubarak Bin Abdullah Al Sulaiti

The newly enacted Law No. 21 of 2015 governing and regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates – which entered into force December 16, 2016 – has been hailed as a momentous change to the prevailing labour environment in the state of Qatar, especially given the new epoch of advancement and achievement that is currently taking place as part of Qatar National Vision 2030.

The newly promulgated law shall have various merits and privileges, including, without limitation, serving the investment interests of the state, in addition to the interests of employers and employees. The newly enacted law shall allow expats – having obtained approval from the concerned authority at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and following the completion of the limited-term contract – to transfer their sponsorship to a new employer.

Under the unlimited-term contract, the employee, after completing five years of service with his or her employer, may transfer his or her sponsorship over to a new employer. There is no doubt that such legal enhancement will result in expanding the domain of competition among employees across various fields of work. Moreover, employers will be able to take advantage of the increased opportunities to screen and choose the best and most efficient candidates available in the state of Qatar, instead of soliciting new candidates from abroad.

A breakthrough also occurred in the articles regulating the exit of expatriates from the state of Qatar. The old law stipulated that expatriates may not leave the state temporarily or permanently unless they are provided with an exit permit issued by their residence sponsor. If the sponsor did not grant the exit permit, the expatriate would have no alternative but to approach the human rights authority with their complaint.

However, the new Law No. 21 of 2015 governing and regulating the entry, exit, and residency of expatriates stipulates under Article 7 that the resident or the recruiter must notify the competent authorities each time that the resident leaves the country, and at least three days in advance prior to their leaving. In the event that the recruiter or sponsor does obstruct the resident’s departure, the resident may choose to seek recourse at the Exit Permit Grievances Committee, whose formation, purview, organisational structure and official proceedings shall follow in accordance with a decree from the minister. The Exit Permit Grievances Committee must take action on the request within three working days of its submission.

Generally speaking, the new law shall reduce the volume of employment lawsuits filed by workers claiming their remuneration, benefits and entitlements. Additionally, it will put an end to cases where workers are denied and deprived of their entitlements and remuneration, as they will be able to apply to the human rights authority to transfer their sponsorship to other law abiding employers, on the grounds of the arbitrary termination of their service and employment contracts.

In addition to the remarkable breakthrough substantiated by virtue of the provisions of the newly enacted Law No. 21 of 2015, we have also witnessed another significant development related to legislations and provisions in the Qatari environment.

Indeed, Law No. 21 of 2015 amended certain provisions of the Labour Law (promulgated by Law No. 14 of 2014) as it has stipulated that the employer should transfer the wage to the worker’s account with any of the financial institutions in the state.

Regarding the penalties of Law No. 21 of 2015, the legislation provides for the imprisonment for a period not in excess of one month and a fine of no less than QR2000 ($549) and not in excess of QR6000 ($1650), or by either of those two penalties, for anyone who violates any of the legal provisions.

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