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Qatar reforms labour laws to protect migrant workers

DOHA: Qatar has imposed new labour reforms including scrapping a rule requiring employers consent to change jobs will also implement a basic monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals.
The landmark announcement was made by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA). Under Qatar’s kafala (sponsorship) system, migrant workers needed to obtain employer’s permission before changing jobs, a law that has led to abuse and exploitation.
Migrant workers can now change jobs with the need for a no-objection certificate (NOC) before the end of their contract subject to a notice period. “Either party must provide one month written notice in the first two years of the contract or two months notice beyond the second year of the contract,” the MADLSA said in a statement.
It added that the ministry will be working with employers to update all employment contracts where workers earn less than the amount established by the new minimum wage law which will come into force after six months.
The statement added that as part of efforts to boost the effectiveness of the Wage Protection System, the new amendments prescribe stricter penalties for employers failing to pay workers’ wages and introduce penalties for employers who fail to provide adequate accommodation.
In addition to the minimum wage, the ministry has also announced the provision of 500 riyals for accommodation and 300 riyals for food if those expenses are not provided as part of the contract.
The new laws have been welcomed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which described the announcement as a “huge milestone in labour reform agenda for the state of Qatar”.
Amnesty International said the new laws to protect migrant workers are a step in the right direction. It said the Qatari authorities have taken a significant step towards protecting migrant workers by passing two laws which could strike at the heart of the abusive kafala system but full implementation remains key if the country aims to truly end labour exploitation.
“For too long, laws that ban workers from changing jobs without their employer’s permission, along with widespread low pay, have left migrant workers in Qatar at the mercy of abusive employers. We welcome the enactment of these laws, and now call on the Qatari authorities to ensure they are swiftly and properly implemented,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice.
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