Advisory Council unlikely to delay new Sponsorship Law

The Advisory Council is expected to complete its study of the draft sponsorship law, which regulates the entry, exit and residence of foreign workers, very soon, despite its disagreement on some of the key articles, says prominent Qatari lawyer Yousuf Ahmed Al Zaman, in an interview with The Peninsula.

The Council, in its regular session on Monday, discussed the draft law and returned it to its Internal and External Affairs committee for further study.

The Council members disagree with the provisions of some articles of the draft law, especially those related to transfer of sponsorship and grant of the exit permit.

“The Advisory Council is expected to finish its study soon, probably in a week, because the law has to be issued. The government is expected to consider the Council’s opinion put forward in the interest of the public and the employers, without compromising its international commitments,” Al Zaman said.

He added that it was not mandatory for the government to accept the Council’s recommendations.

Dispute on few points

According to Al Zaman, the Council members’ concerns mainly relate to two articles — Article 7 and Article 21. Other Qatari bodies have also expressed concern about these articles earlier.

“Most of the discussions were focused on these issues. The remaining articles were not controversial since the relation between the employer and the employee will be governed by work contracts,” said Al Zaman.

Change of Jobs

One major controversial issue is the provision in Article 21 allowing expatriate employees to change jobs without the consent of their employer. It will allow workers with fixed job contracts to change jobs when the contract period ends, and those with open contracts will be able to change jobs after working with one employer for five years, with approval from the authorities concerned.

The Advisory Council wants the duration to be doubled in both cases to protect the interests of employers, who the Council members believe take pains to bring foreign worker here and train them.

In the case of fixed contracts, the time limit should be double the contract period, while in the case of open contracts it should be 10 years instead of five, they say.

Exit Permit

Article 7 will allow expatriate workers to leave the country without approval from their employer, after they have informed the Ministry of Interior three days prior to their departure.

Return after termination

The third controversial point in the draft law is that it does not specify the period after which an expatriate worker can return to Qatar after leaving the country following the termination of his job contract.

“The Advisory Council wants this to be two years, as it is now, or rather increased to four years to reduce the inflow of foreign workers,” said Al Zaman.

Database of expatriates required

A database with all the necessary information on expatriates in Qatar will be required for the implementation of the new law, he said. This is because the authorities issuing exit permits or approving change of jobs will need to know the status of the workers.

“As for Qatari employers, they will have to redefine their relations with expatriate workers, knowing that their presence in the country is temporary and is based on the job contract. Any authorisation, financial or legal, is going to be at the employer’s risk,” said Al Zaman.

Earlier suggestion

He said it had been suggested earlier that expatriate workers be classified according to the nature of their job and their position, and conditions for grant of exit permit and change of jobs be formulated on this basis. However, this proposal was not considered in the draft law.

“Implementation of this law will require a solid database to be shared by the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice and financial institutions. Are the ministries ready to set up this collective network? And is there a sample of the work contract that can protect the interests of the citizens and investors?,” asked Al Zaman.

The court procedures should have to be made faster if the Minister of Interior should take decision on job transfer applications from expatriates with pending court cases. Otherwise many expatriate workers would be kept waiting until the court finishes its procedures, said Al Zaman. 

Source: The Peninsula article by Mohammed Osman

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