Qatar launches awareness campaign for labour law changes

New legislation to make it easier for expats to leave the country and change jobs is set to be brought in on Dec 13

A demonstrator holds a placard critical of Qatar's policies regarding the working conditions of migrant workers. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

A demonstrator holds a placard critical of Qatar's policies regarding the working conditions of migrant workers. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

A two-month awareness campaign to promote wider understanding of planned changes to Qatar’s labour laws gets underway this week.

The initiative, being led by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, will look to educate employers and members of Qatar’s migrant community about their rights and obligations under Law No. 21 of 2015, ahead of the reform's implementation in December, Qatar News Agency reported.

One of the key changes in the new law, approved by the Emir in October, is that expats will apply to the government rather than their sponsor for an exit permit, making it easier for some to leave the country or change jobs.

Sponsors will be able to object to an individual leaving the country, while applicants can appeal a decision to refuse an exit permit.

Also, expats who finish fixed contracts will need the permission of the government to take up another job, rather than consent from their sponsor.

Dr Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi, Qatar's Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, said: "The significant changes to Qatar’s labour laws in December will require employers, embassies, the Qatar Chamber and other official entities to understand how to comply with the new legal framework around Qatar’s labour laws. Workers will also need to be aware of their rights and obligations under the new law."

The awareness campaign will start with a series of workshops targeting key stakeholders including members of the Qatar Chamber, Embassy labour representatives in Qatar, heads of labour communities and managers and representatives of private companies and institutions.

Qatari officials argue that the changes will help protect the rights of foreign workers but in a report earlier this year, the International Labour Organization said “[The new sponsorship law] still places restrictions on the possibility of workers to leave the country or to change employers and would prevent workers who might be victims of abusive practices from freeing themselves from these situations.”

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