Qatar has scrapped a rule requiring employers’ consent to change jobs and said it will also implement a basic monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($274).
Sunday’s landmark announcement by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) is the latest in a series of labour reforms by the country whose treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been under the spotlight since it was awarded the hosting of football’s 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Under Qatar’s “kafala” (Arabic word for sponsorship) system, migrant workers needed to obtain their employer’s permission – a no-objection certificate (NOC) – before changing jobs, a law that rights activists said tied their presence in the country to their employers and led to abuse and exploitation.
With the announcement, migrant workers can now change jobs 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 law [minimum wage], which will come into force after 6 months of its publication in the official gazette”.
Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, described the development as “a new dawn for migrant workers in Qatar to have a fair system, to end the kafala system and normalise contracts with appropriate provisions”.
“It has been a long journey,” she added. “Frankly it will make the World Cup a much more secure environment for workers knowing that they have secured an industrialized work relations system.”