Qatar continues to reform its domestic labor laws and regulations so that migrant and guest workers may obtain the highest standards from their employers. The latest development is the removal of the exit permit requirement. Prior to this change in the labor code, workers were required to obtain an exit permit to leave the country. Law No. 13 of 2018, amends provisions of Law No. 21 of 2015 and Law No. 1 of 2017 which regulated the entry and exit of expatriates. Under the previous legal framework, all migrant workers were required to obtain an exit permit from their employer in order to leave Qatar.
Qatar currently hosts around 2 million migrant workers that are involved, either directly or indirectly, with the nation’s preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Labor Minister, Issa Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi stated that,
“The adoption of this law is another step in our continued drive to provide decent work for all migrant workers in Qatar and to ensure their protection.”
The new law was immediately backed by the United Nations, International Labor Organization (ILO) that opened an office in Qatar’s capital city of Doha. Houtan Homayounpour, head of the Doha ILO office stated that,
“The ILO welcomes enactment of the law, which will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of migrant workers in Qatar. This first step towards full suppression of exit permits is a clear sign of commitment by the government of Qatar to labor reforms. The ILO will continue to work closely with the government of Qatar on these reforms.”
The new law will apply to the vast majority of migrant workers except for a select few. The law specifies that employers would have to submit the names of exempt workers to the Ministry of Labor & Social Affairs, for whom a “no objection certificate” would still be required, along with a justification. The number of these workers cannot exceed five percent of an individual company’s workforce. Furthermore, those excluded must be classified as the top five percent/most senior position holders of an individual company’s workforce.
In November 2017, Qatar formally established a minimum wage for migrant workers. Qatar also signed an agreement with ILO to mutually cooperate to both enforce and strengthen Qatar’s legal framework to best protect migrant workers. Other recent reforms enacted by Qatar include protecting workers’ right to exit the country, refund any recruitment fees charged by intermediaries to secure employment for migrant workers, the implementation of a Wage Protection System (WPS), and the creation of a confidential hotline where migrant workers may report any grievances.
(Image Source: Supreme Committee)