A number of small businesses have been accused of exploiting their workers by denying them simple benefits laid down in Qatar’s labor law.
According to some employees – many of whom put in long hours in grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, juice stalls and convenience shops – their bosses are routinely flouting the rules because they know they can get away with it.
The Qatar Labor Law was introduced to safeguard the interests and welfare of low-paid workers and clearly states the legal working hours in the country; mandatory overtime rates; and benefits such as one flight home a year.
Adding insult to injury, more and more small businesses are wilfully ignoring the rules as the number of expatriates rises.
Unlike large groups of workers, say in the field of construction, who band together to fight for their rights, employees in small businesses often feel isolated and unable to air their grievances.
“Workers of smaller establishments like restaurants and cafeterias may have numerous problems at their work places, but they rarely seek our mission’s intervention,” said an official at the Indian embassy.
He added that the embassy’s help is mostly sought only when employers terminate workers at short notice.
Most of small business employees are brought into Qatar on visas provided by their bosses.
Another grocery worker in Najma said he has had to buy his own air ticket to travel home for his vacation once every two years. “As per the labor law, employers should give tickets to their workers when they travel home on vacation,” clarifies Indian legal expert Nizar Kochery.
He adds that an employee has the right to seek the intervention of the labour department if such benefits are denied to him.
However, a grocery store owner told Gulf Times that most of his workers are not under his sponsorship, thus not making him liable for such provisions, enshrined in the relevant law. But he had no answer when asked whether his workers have been employed with prior permission from the concerned departments.
According to Articles 73, 74 and 75 of the Qatar Labor Law, workers are also entitled to overtime allowances if their work exceeds the stipulated 8 hours. Article 73 stipulates that eight hours a day and 48 hours per week is the maximum for workers. However, it is an open secret that staff at most groceries, cafeterias and restaurants put in at least twice this stipulated time and still are not paid for the additional hours.
The law also clearly states that during Ramadan, the maximum permissible working hours should be reduced to 6 hours a day and 36 hours a week.
Article 74 ensures that workers get overtime for extra hours, but they should not exceed 10 hours a day unless there is an emergency. The worker is entitled to an additional 25% of their wages for the extra work.
According to Article 75, workers should also get a weekly paid rest and if they work on a rest day they should be given 150% of their basic wage.
Article 3 has not exempted supermarkets or similar establishments from the application of the labor law.
“Unfortunately, most of such provisions are violated by operators of smaller establishments,” says Kochery.
Source: Gulf Times