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Changes agreed to Qatar's kafala system for foreign workers, says report

Qatar has agreed to changes to its kafala system for sponsoring foreign workers, removing the right of employers to prevent workers leaving the country, according to local news reports. 22 Sep 2015

Qatar's cabinet has backed draft legislation on the system and taken "measures to issue a law regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates", the official Qatar news service reportedly said.

"The bill included provisions related to regulating the procedures and conditions of expatriates' entry, exit, residency and recruitment as well as switching to a different employer," the news agency reportedly said

The law will come into force within a year of being passed and published in the official gazette, The Pensinsula reported, citing lawyer Yusuf Al Zaman. The law is likely to be published in the gazette later this year.

Al Zaman told The Peninsula that the new law will not include the current 'exit permit' system, where employees need permission to leave the country. The Advisory Council has recommended that workers must give three days notice, he said. 

The employers would have no right to stop the worker from leaving, except through legal proceedings where there is a lawsuit against the worker, Al Zaman told the Peninsula.

"This is a positive step for the Qatar employment sector and reflects its intention to improve the rights and freedom of expatriate employees working within the country," said employment expert Luke Tapp of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "This amendment will reflect the approach adopted by neighbouring jurisdictions, such as the UAE where employees may exit the country without obtaining the consent of the current or former employer." 

The terms kafeel (sponsor), kafala (sponsorship) and tashera al khurooj (exit permit) will no longer appear in the legislation. These were used when the law was put in place in 1963, Al Zaman said. Under the new law each worker will sign a job contract with an employer, he said.

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