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JustHere | November 15, 2017

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Dealing with job loss in Qatar; One step at a time

Dealing with job loss in Qatar; One step at a time

Lynne-Ann Abrahams lost her job earlier this year. She shares her learning on what one must do to move from crisis to control.

I spent my first three years in Doha as an English teacher. The salary was low but there was a relative sense of job security and I would always listen on nervously as the engineers and managers in my circle of friends spoke about downsizing, termination and retrenchment. Earlier this year, I secured a higher paying job in a small government programme. Five months later my position was made redundant with immediate effect.

In the weeks that followed I experienced a range of conflicting emotions from denial to anger to disappointment.

“Retrenchment is ranked one of the most stressful life experiences alongside divorce and the loss of a loved one,” says Carol Scahill, a mental health care specialist. “People tend to focus on the practicalities of being without a job and overlook the emotional impact it may have.”

I went into crisis mode and started an aggressive job hunt. Below are a few things I reckon anyone facing retrenchment should know:

Finance: First things first

Establish whether your company will provide an NOC for sponsorship transfer. Negotiate the timeframes. If you have a loan or credit card your final salary and settlement will go towards clearing outstanding balances. Once the HR informs the bank of your termination (this is mandatory), your accounts will be frozen immediately.

Your monthly credit card or loan repayments most likely include payment for an insurance policy that covers retrenchment. The bank will submit the paperwork on your behalf, but its worth knowing that each case is assessed by the insurance company first and this process may take 6-8 weeks. In this time your accounts will remain frozen.

“In reality the bank does not treat retrenchment any differently to dismissal or resignation,” comments one engineer who was retrenched last year. “Though an involuntary event, your financial obligations are the same.”

9 things to keep in mind
  1. Ask your HR to give you some time before informing the bank especially if your dismissal was immediate.
  2. Call the bank and discuss whether you have any options to access your funds especially if you intend to stay in Qatar and find a new position.
  3. Draw up a budget and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to use shopping as therapy. But give yourself the occasional treat to keep up your spirits. Go out with friends as usual but keep within that tight budget.
  4. If your HR or line manager has offered to circulate your CV through her network, take up the offer.
  5. Talk to a professional if you find yourself struggling emotionally. Maintain a routine; wake up early, shower, dress properly and head to a coffee shop with your laptop. Send out CVs, do follow up calls.
  6. Don’t withdraw from your family and friends.
  7. Request an exit interview with your manager to talk over your performance.
  8. Keep in touch with your former colleagues but don’t be drawn into the office politics that may follow a round of retrenchments. Don’t engage in malicious gossip about your former colleagues or manager.
  9. Decide how and when you will explain the retrenchment to interviewers. There’s a chance others in the industry will know if your previous company was retrenching and why.

You will probably ask yourself “what if?” more than once and have personal regrets. Extract the positives and negatives from an experience like this and keep your eyes on the future.

Lynne-Ann Abrahams is from Cape Town, South Africa. She came to Qatar four years ago to teach English and now works full time as a technical writer. Lynne continues to write fiction and her main project at present is a crime fiction novel set in post-apartheid South Africa.

We address various aspects of Working in Qatar in this series, including finance, laws, HR development. Write to us if there is a particular subject you are interested in and would like to read about.

Comments

  1. taurz

    You should write something on “Being stuck at the same job in Qatar for 10 years” ~~~~!!!!!

  2. abu faisal

    Underground Economy in Qatar
    I wonder how a businessman can enter a country in globalized economy when it is not allowed to do so without a national sponsor. This is not a new topic; on the contrary, people all over the world are criticizing sponsorship system in Qatar and many activists are organizing campaigns to convince the world not hold Olympiad 2022 in Qatar due to its systematic violations of human rights. A simple look at the annual report prepared by USA Foreign Department on human rights makes a reader horrified at what workers face as of low salaries, harsh working conditions, beating, and other forms of abuse. This is an old story no one is interested to read about. It is even dwarfed by recent events and blood baths which have overshadowed all other events. But bringing up the issue repeatedly might push policy makers to study it seriously and find a solution.
    Underground economy is sometimes called shadow economy because it is unseen. In this type of business, a Qatari person opens a company, let’s say a contracting company, starts searching for aliens who need sponsors to start a business. The Qatari person provides them with the license as a branch of his company and the alien investor sets up the business with his own money for a certain amount of money given to the Qatari man who accepts to make the new business part of his company and be a sponsor. Of course, everything in the company is registered in the name of the Qatari person. They usually sign a paper at a lawyer’s office stating that the real owner of the branch is an expatriate and the Qatari man is a sponsor and the legal owner of the whole company including the branch.
    Things might go so smoothly and no conflict might arise; however, it happens so often that the sponsor cancels the residence permit for one reason or another, and mostly in case the branch is so profitable and the sponsor wants it for himself. The expat can complain to Labor department, but the case takes a long time to be settled and the expat pays a fine for each day of delay in the country with the residence permit is cancelled. This way is extremely beneficial for the Qataris who want easy money. A mother company may include up to ten branches set up by expats who pay their Qatari sponsor up to half the profit or sometimes lump sum agreed upon beforehand. The confession written at a lawyer’s office is not a protection because it is illegal and the Qatari man can cancel his residence permit immediately.
    This type of agreements is very common in Qatar but rarely is it brought up because both the expat and the Qatari persons want a mutual benefit. But in this type of business which is based on good intentions, there is no legal guarantee for the expat to retain his business. It is all a risky venture and full of anxiety.
    In contrast, UAE, Qatar’s neighbor, cancelled this system and an expat does not need to do business via “underground economy”. An expat can start his business together a local citizen but the local citizen cannot cancel the residence of the expat. In case of conflict, the alien investor pays his local partner the money agreed upon and the alien finds another partner. It is a very good arrangement and saves the rights of the expat investor and relationship between the citizen and the expat grows into close friendship and endures for a long time.
    Yet, things may be even worse than robbing the alien of his business legally. If the expat investor in Qatar is a woman and the sponsor is a Qatari man, she may get abused sexually which has happened repeatedly. It is undeclared policy in Qatar to absolve their compatriots in any legal case as a sort of national duty.
    This problem is not faced by international big companies with huge capacities and which have their own legal consultants and can defend themselves well in case of exploitation or abuse. Most often, small and medium businesses suffer from this type of abuse as they normally have limited finance.
    Yet, underground economy also takes other forms. Some Qataris recruit workers for household works like drivers, teachers, nurses, cooks or other similar jobs and send them to work for money. In fact, there are expatriates who do the same without any license or registration of their underground business. In such a case, workers obey orders to retain their original jobs with very meager wages. Such “businessmen” make handsome money by activities like beautification and hairdos, baby sitting, driving, cleaning or tutoring and they send their workers anywhere regardless of who the customer is or what working conditions are with any payment for the worker.
    Moreover, in some establishments where an expat works as an employee, people in charge who are mostly citizens order the employee to do personal jobs related to their specialization after work like tutoring their children or making their accounts or translating documents. Worse than this, citizens whose jobs require research and writing papers normally ask their expat employees to write for them, sometimes in return for money and sometimes for no payment at all. Employees are often scared of contract termination and they accept such work to maintain their jobs. In this way, citizens make names for themselves within the establishment or in media if they are interested in publishing. There are academics, journalists and executives who rely completely on the expats in their establishments for writing papers. These pseudo-writers get job promotions and salary increment for publications they have not written.
    Lawyers are specially benefiting from this situation. Expat lawyers are not allowed to appear in court for deliberation and only citizens can appear before a judge. However, major and thorny cases are referred to the lawyers or legal consultants working for the Qatari lawyer who study the cases and prepare the case files and explain them to Qatari lawyer who appear in court and deliberate the case. What is astonishing is that there are cases worth millions; a small part of which goes to the consultants and the rest goes to the citizen. There is no law that defines a certain percentage assigned to the consultant who figured out the maze and found a way out. A lucky lawyer is one who employs smart consultants who win him cases and invariably millions and make him a glittering name in the judiciary sector.
    In short, shadow economy is a rich soil for abuse, robbery and humiliation. Qatar should follow the footsteps of its neighbor UAE which has adopted a more fair and humanistic policy to all foreign investors, just to reduce its portfolio of foreigners’ abuse.

  3. MishalK

    Were any options discussed with you prior to your retrenchment?? There is no union representation in Qatar, of course. But international practice is that companies consult before redundancies or restructuring.

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