MOI to issue new sponsorship law soon; no official date announced
Amendments to the existing sponsorship law would be made soon, the Ministry of Interior has announced. Companies in Qatar are yet waiting for an official date though.
Brigadier Nasser Mohamed al-Sayed, director of the Investigations and Follow-Up Department has said that there will be “updates and changes to the provisions and articles of the law so that it met the aspirations of citizens and residents”, local Arabic daily Arrayah has reported. There was no indication if the kafala system and exit permit would be cancelled or not.
The companies that JustHere contacted have not received any official circular stating when the new law would be implemented. Some have speculated that the changes would be effective from 1 June. “The new law is also said to include conditions to protect the rights of the sponsor,” said an HR officer at an advertising firm.
“There has been talks about making the labour laws similar to UAE,” said another HR officer of a telecom company.
Here’s a comparison of the sponsorship system in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE that we carried in one of our earlier posts.
|Country||Sponsorship Law||Exit Permit|
|Bahrain||In 2009, Bahrain adopted the strongest sponsorship reforms in the region by permitting migrant workers to change employment without their employers’ consent and in the absence of allegations of nonpayment of wages or abuse. 2009’s legal reforms allowed migrant workers to change employment after meeting certain notice requirements and provided a 30-day grace period to remain legally in the country while they seek new employment. However, these positive changes do not apply to domestic workers.||Not Required|
|Qatar||Expatriates are allowed to work only under sponsorship. Once sponsored, the employee can not work for another employer unless a special permission has been granted.
Sponsorship can be transferred to another employer only after agreement from the existing and new employers. The right to change sponsors is not mandated by law and is left to the discretion of sponsors.
If the employee has not been granted a release letter or No Objection Certificate (NOC), he would be required to leave the country for a minimum of two years before returning to work for another employer.
|UAE||UAE Laws require foreign nationals to be primarily sponsored by a UAE national (citizen), except in the case of domestic workers, where foreign nationals can be sponsors too. Businesses are able to sponsor their employees mainly because a UAE national is a partner, owner or a majority shareholder of the business-sponsor (this might differ in the free zones).
As a general rule, a labour ban is still imposed on all expatriate employees in the UAE who are working in the private sector when they want to change from one employer to another if they left the current employer without having completed a minimum of two years service. The ban could be for six months or a year.
But the ban can be lifted if the new employer offers the candidate a higher position and a salary equal or above the salary set by the ministry against his or her qualifications.
|Saudi Arabia||Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship system, requires all migrant workers to have a Saudi citizen as their sponsor who is usually the employer. The sponsor is responsible for their visa and legal status.
In April 2012, Labour Ministry had proposed abolishing the kafala system by transferring immigration sponsorship to newly created recruitment and placement agencies, but later retracted its decision.
|Kuwait||Under Article 3 of Kuwait’s Private Sector Labour Law, an expatriate worker must obtain a work permit issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, under the sponsorship of a Kuwaiti entity. The law also states that a release is required from the sponsor for the work permit of an employee to be transferred to the sponsorship of another Kuwaiti entity.
According to recent reports, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour has established the Public Authority for Labour Affairs in a bid to abolish the sponsorship system for private sector labour force. The authority would be directly responsible for all matters concerning private sector employees, including recruitment of expatriate labour forces and managing employer-employee relationship.
|Oman||Under the Kafala system, migrant workers are not allowed to change employers without their sponsors’ consent. Otherwise the worker is considered as an illegal resident in the country according to a law issued in 2003.
If the worker’s service period was less than two years in Oman, there must be a release letter from the former sponsor indicating that he (the sponsor) has no objection to the employment of that worker by any other employer without being subject to the two-year restriction.
For a migrant worker to change his sponsorship to a new sponsor (employer) while still inside the country, there must be a release letter from the former sponsor and approved by the Directorate General of Labour.
Qatar’s strict kafala system has received a lot of backlash from international media and human rights watchdogs, especially since it won the rights to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup. The worst affected is the low-income workers, who are trapped in the country because of the law. As per the sponsorship system, employees cannot change jobs or leave the country even, without the consent of the sponsor.
With the new sponsorship law, authorities hope to better the working conditions of expatriates and citizens in Qatar. In yet another step, the Government launched a new ‘Wage Protection System’ that makes it mandatory for companies to pay workers their salaries through bank transfers. Through this scheme, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs would be able to monitor salary payments electronically, and thus avoid any cases of non-payment or delay in payment of wages.
Share your experiences on how the kafala system has affected your personal and work life here in Qatar.