Qatar: Qatar's New Civil Human Resources Law: A Commentary On The Changes Introduced

On 23 November 2016, Law No. 15 of 2016 with respect to Civil Human Resources (the New Law) repealed Law No. 8 of 2009 with respect to the Human Resources Management Law (the Old Law). Following this, the executive regulations of the New Law (the Executive Regulations) were published in the Official Gazette and became effective as of 30 December 2016.

Both the Old Law and the New Law govern the employment of civil servants of Qatari Ministries, other government agencies, public authorities and institutions. Similarly with the Old Law, the New Law is not applicable to members of the judiciary, employees of the Amiri Diwan, State Audit Bureau, diplomats and consular corps, university lecturers or Qatari Petroleum employees. Additionally, the New Law specifically states that it is not applicable to employees of the Qatar Investment Authority.

The New Law largely upholds many of the previous provisions of the Old Law providing linguistic changes where necessary for clarity. A clear differentiation between Qatari employees and expatriates is evident. This article examines the main changes introduced by the New Law.

Planning and Organisation

As with the Old Law, the New Law details how a government entity should organise itself including, but not limited to, job descriptions, job positions, grading structures and start dates. The New Law provides that the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs will draft a guidebook outlining the description, classification and grading of government sector jobs which must be approved by the Minister of Administrative Development Labour and Social Affairs.

Probation

The New Law upholds the mandatory 3 month probationary period which may be extended for a further 3 months. The Executive Regulations provide that an employee on probation may resign on providing 15 days' notice in writing. The New Law goes on further to clarify that an employee who is reappointed to a similar position or promoted will be subject to a new 3 month probationary period.

Salary, Increments and Allowances

  • Salary

A clear differentiation between Qatari and expatriate employees is evident in relation to salary and grading levels. Qatari employees may now earn a monthly salary of QR 4,600 – QR 65,000 per month depending on their grade, whereas expatriate employees may earn between QR 2,200 – QR 23,000 per month.

  • Increments

Qatari employees are entitled to salary increases of 1% - 6% per year. There is no longer an obligation for the increment to fall on the 1 April of each year. A Qatari employee whose salary reaches the maximum pay scale for his/her grade is granted a monthly bonus in line with the increment, regardless of performance.

  • Allowances

The New Law does not introduce any significant changes to allowances; however it does expressly provide that bonuses awarded by the government entity may not exceed QR 3,000 and incentive bonuses awarded by the chairman of the government entity must not exceed the employee's gross monthly salary or be awarded more than twice per fiscal year.

Leave

Similarly to the Old Law, the New Law provides that employees are entitled to leave as follows:

  • 45 days for employees who hold positions of the seventh grade or above;
  • 40 days for employees who hold positions between the eighth and tenth grade; and
  • 30 days for employees who hold positions of other grades or the equivalent.

The New Law continues to encourage employees to take their full annual leave in the year due. However, where this is not possible, at least half of the employee's annual leave entitlement should be taken in the relevant leave year (save for employees in certain roles such as labourers) and the remainder may be carried forward into the subsequent year (and must be used in that subsequent year). Employees are not entitled to receive cash in lieu of any accrued untaken annual leave.

Furthermore, the New Law retains the 16 types of leave detailed under the Old Law which employees may be entitled to as a right, or by virtue of their gender or marriage status. Interestingly, the New Law provides that where a female employee gives birth to twins, the maternity leave duration increases from two months to three.

All leave taken by employees must be paid at full pay, save where the leave period (other than sick leave) exceeds one year. Generally (subject to the exceptions set out in the Executive Regulations) periods of leave in excess of one year should not be counted as part of the employee's period of service.

The New Law provides clarity with regards to work related injuries or occupational diseases. An employee suffering a work related injury or occupational disease may be granted fully paid sick leave for a maximum period of one year. If the employee does not recover following this period, the employee will be referred to a recognised medical institution to consider the termination of his employment (if the employee is non-Qatari) or the extension of his fully paid sick leave for a further year, as opposed to 6 months under the Old Law (if the employee is Qatari).

Performance Evaluation Systems

Government entities must develop performance evaluation systems in order to "motivate" employees and "enhance team spirit" and must grade employees at one of five grades from "excellent" through to "poor". The New Law provides examples of where an employee's performance may be rated as ''good'' (for example, where the employee is seconded to work abroad for over 18 months) and reiterates examples set by the Old Law to clarify instances whereby an employee's performance should not be rated as ''excellent'' or ''very good'' (for example, where the employee fails to pass or attend training).

Promotions

The New Law introduces changes to promotions for positions of grades ranging from ''twelve'' (the lowest grade) to ''excellent'' (one of the highest grades, only under Assistant Undersecretary and Undersecretary). Employees may only be promoted by one grade at a time.

Promotions are now generally conditional upon (i) the employee's performance evaluation levels for the past two years not falling below ''good'' (or "very good" in the case of promotions to "special" and "first" grades); (ii) the employee satisfying the intermediate period set in the manual on public positions description, classification and grading (which provides further details on promotions including the experience required and the training and qualifications needed to move grades save in cases of "extraordinary promotions", for which different criteria apply); and (iii) the employee passing the applicable training courses.

The New Law (in a schedule) sets out the minimum and maximum salary levels, and periodic increments, for each grade. Upon promotion, a Qatari employee occupying positions of ''first'' grade or lower (i.e. all employees save for those in the "excellent" category) is entitled to the minimum pay scale of the promoted grade or the salary the employee received before promotion, plus the periodic increment applicable to the promoted grade; whichever is higher.

Disciplinary Actions

The New Law upholds the internal disciplinary processes which government entities should adopt and implement. It does however extend the prescribed list of disciplinary penalties to all staff from, assistant undersecretary and below, and contains a broader list of penalties including (i) a reduction of salary; or (ii) degrading the employee by one grade and reducing the salary.

Absence

The New Law provides significant changes to notification timeframes following the employee's absence from work. In the event the employee is absent from work without permission for 15 consecutive days or 30 intermittent days without a justified reason, the employee will be deemed to have resigned. In the case of consecutive absence, the termination will take effect from the first day of absence and in the case of intermittent absence, the termination will take effect from the last day of absence.

In relation to the above, the employee must now be notified in writing of the legal effect of their absence after five days of consecutive absence (compared to 7 days under the Old Law) or after 10 days of intermittent absence (compared to 15 days under the Old Law).

End of Service gratuity

The New Law upholds the position of end of service gratuity (the ESG) under the Old Law.

A Qatari employee with at least one year's service shall be entitled to ESG calculated as follows:

  • Basic salary of one month per year of service for the first 5 years.
  • Basic salary of one month and a half for every year of service for the following 5 years.
  • Basic salary of 2 months for every year of service thereafter.

Employees entitled to ESG are not generally entitled to a pension as well. The only caveat to this is that employees engaged for more than 20 years will receive ESG in addition to their pension for their period of service in excess of 20 years only. Such ESG is calculated on the basis of one-month's basic salary for each year of service about 20 years and 2 months' basic salary for each year of service in excess of 30 years.

An expatriate employee with at least one year's service is entitled to ESG on the basis of one month's basic salary for each year of service up to a maximum of 10 months.

Conclusion

While the New Law replaces the Old Law entirely, the New Law continues to uphold many of the old provisions. A clear differentiation between Qatari and expatriate employees is evident most notably salary, allowances, increments and sick leave granted for employees sustaining a work injury or an occupational disease.

Overall, the changes introduced are likely to provide clarity and encourage high calibre employees, especially Qatari individuals, to undertake employment in government sectors.

Note: Qatari Laws (save for those issued by, eg. the QFC to regulate its own business), are issued in Arabic and there are no official translations, therefore for the purposes of drafting this article Clyde & Co LLP has used its own translations and interpreted the same in the context of Qatari laws, regulation and current market practice.

Qatar's New Civil Human Resources Law: A Commentary On The Changes Introduced

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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