Job contracts to replace Kafala system

With years in the making, it appears that the much criticised Kafala(sponsorship) system is due to be overhauled, according to official statements

The new law regulating entry, exit and residency of expatriates under the Kafala (sponsorship) system has been transformed into one controlled by employment contracts. (Image The Peninsula)
The new law regulating entry, exit and residency of expatriates under the Kafala (sponsorship) system has been transformed into one controlled by employment contracts. (Image The Peninsula)

Qatar has transformed the Kafala system, a senior official of the Ministry of Interior has said.

The new law regulating entry, exit and residency of expatriates under the Kafala (sponsorship) system has been transformed into one controlled by employment contracts, said Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Atiq, assistant director general of the Department of Border, Passport and Expatriates Affairs at the ministry.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday 29 October, the Brigadier said that the new law has done away with exit permits that were an essential part of the much criticised Kafala system.

“Exit permit will no more be required for travel since it was part of the Kafala system, which will become invalid with enforcement of this law,” said Al Atiq.

The amended system entails that to leave the country, an employee needs to apply to the departments concerned at the Ministry of Interior through Metrash 2 system and inform his employer three days in advance of intended departure.

“No one will prevent an expatriate worker from leaving the country and in case of any objection (from the employer), both sides can approach the grievances committee which will look into the issue,” Al Atiq added.

The grievance committee will comprise representatives from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and other bodies concerned, The Peninsula reports.

The applicant will receive a SMS confirming status of application, whether it be an approval or rejection and any dispute it should be raised to the grievance committee. If the committee does not take a decision within three working days then the case be referred to the court, explained the official.

In case of an emergency, the worker can leave immediately after notifying the employer and by approval of the authorities, according to the law.

Brig Al Atiq added that major changes have been made in the residency law including change of the sponsorship (Kafala) system into one controlled by an employment contract and accordingly, the term sponsor (kafeel) has been replaced by employer.

He highlighted that the relation between the employer and employee will be based on the terms of the employment contract signed on a voluntary basis by both parties.

When the employment contract is approved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs it becomes binding on both parties.
The official explained further that an employee can return to the country two or three days after his departure to take up a new job in the event of securing a new contract, if he fulfils entry visa requirements and if there is no court verdict against him.
The current system does not allow a worker to return to the country before two years have passed after he is sent back by his sponsor, he added. However, this does not apply to those who are deported by a court order.

Under the new law, the fine on the employer for keeping employees’ passports has been increased from QR10,000 to QR25,000.

An employer can keep the passport of his employee only upon a written request from the employee, said Brig Al Atiq.

Also present at the press conference was Saleh Al Shawi, director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, who pointed out: “We expect a smooth implementation of the law and more than 90% of the cases would comply with the new procedure for exit and the committee would be dealing with the remaining less than 10%.”
When asked why the law comes into force one year after the date of its publication in the official gazette, Al Shawi said that time was required to prepare for its implementation.

The new system needs to be introduced to the job market, and all parties concerned need to be aware of the requirements of the new system regulated by job contracts.

According to Brig Al Atiq, one year is needed for implementation of the law because to accommodate processes and procedures, including issuance of executive regulations for the law, establishment of the grievance committee and outlining its mandates.

Expatriate workers with fixed job contracts can change their work and sign new contracts if they so desired at the end of the contract period. For this approval was not necessary from their current employer. However, an approval is needed from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Al Shawi explained that there is no limitation on the number of job contracts a worker can sign or their duration, but the law has suggested five years as the maximum period for employment contracts. If the job contract is open-ended, a worker can change job after five years with approval from the two ministries.

Al Shawi added that expatriate workers will [need to] sign new job contracts with their employers after the new law comes into force because the law does not apply to existing job contracts.

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