Maternity entitlements in Qatar

As the number of women in the Qatar workforce increases, it is important for employers as well as female employees to understand the laws relating to maternity leave and entitlements (together referred to here as “maternity entitlements”).

In Qatar, minimum maternity entitlements are primarily set out in two different laws – the Labour Law (Law No. (14) of 2004) (“Labour Law”) and the Qatar Financial Centre Employment Regulations (“QFC Law”).
Set out below are brief answers to some of the most common questions that arise in relation to maternity entitlements.

1. Who is entitled to maternity entitlements?

Under the QFC Law, female employees working for any QFC body will be entitled to maternity entitlements. This will include the QFC Authority, the QFC Regulatory Authority and other QFC institutions as well as private companies, branches or partnerships established in or licensed to do business in the QFC.

The only exceptions to this basic rule may be where a female employee is regarded as a consultant or agent, or as a temporary employee (where the employment period is less than three months in a consecutive 12 month period).

Under the Labour Law, female employees may also be entitled to maternity benefits. The Labour Law applies to specified categories of persons employed in Qatar. There are, however, a number of significant categories of employees to which the Labour Law does not apply (in the absence of a special Ministerial Resolution stating otherwise). The categories of employees not covered by the Labour law include (note this list is not exhaustive):
* Persons employed by government ministries and other overnmental organs, public institutions, government corporations (including Qatar Petroleum and its associated companies) and employees whose employment affairs are regulated by special laws;
* Officers and members of the armed forces and police and workers employed at sea;
* Casual employees; and
* Domestic employees such as drivers, housemaids, nurses, cooks, gardeners and similar workers.
2. I am an employee not covered by the Labour Law or the QFC Law – do I have any maternity entitlements?
If you are in this situation, it is important that you get your own legal advice to check if there are any specific laws that apply to you or your employer which may provide you with maternity benefits. Sometimes there are laws specific to a particular institution or company or group of employers.
Also, and this is important, you should have a written employment contract between you and your employer and it may provide maternity entitlements to you. This is quite common. Many employers who are not required by law to provide maternity entitlements nonetheless do so. These rights will generally either be found in the employment contract itself or in an employer policy document that covers all employees and sits alongside the terms of the employment contract.
3. Maternity leave – what is a female employee entitled to?
Under the QFC Law, a female employee is entitled to three months’ maternity leave. That leave will be paid maternity leave where the employee has been employed by an employer for a complete year preceding the eight weeks before the expected delivery date. Paid maternity leave is calculated and paid as follows – (a) the employee’s normal weekly pay for the first 45 days of maternity leave and (b) 50% of the employee’s normal weekly pay for the next 45 days of maternity leave.
The Labour Law provides that female employees who have been employed for one year by the same employer are entitled to 50 days paid maternity leave on full salary. The leave must be taken in the period immediately before and after delivery provided that the leave must include 35 days in the post-delivery period. If the post-delivery health of the employee hinders her return to work after the end of her maternity leave period then, provided that an adequate medical certificate is furnished, an employee may take unpaid leave for a period not exceeding 60 consecutive or staggered days.
It is worth noting that the maternity entitlements contained in the QFC Law and the Labour Law are minimum entitlements for female employees covered by those laws. Employers and employees may agree that a female employee shall receive maternity entitlements that are more favourable than those set out in the laws covering them.
4. Does a pregnant employee have to give her employer notice or medical evidence of their pregnancy?
Yes, the QFC Law and the Labour Law both contain such a requirement although the exact requirement differs slightly.
The QFC Law requires an employee to provide notice of maternity leave at least two months before the expected childbirth and at least three weeks before the day the employee proposes to begin her maternity leave. This notice should ideally be in writing. An employer under the QFC Law also has the option to require the employeee to supply a medical certificate issued by a licensed physician stating the expected date of delivery.
The Labour Law requires an employee to furnish to their employer a medical certificate issued by a licensed physician stating the probable delivery date.
5. Can an employer terminate the employment of a female employee when they are on maternity leave?
The Labour Law is more definitive on this point than the QFC Law.
The QFC Law simply states that an employer may not terminate a female employee’s employment, or change her position or conditions, based upon her marriage or pregnancy.
On its face, this may allow an employer to terminate the employment of a female employee during her maternity leave provided that such termination was not because of her pregnancy and the employer could prove such.
To be valid, any such termination in these circumstances would also need to follow the requisite notice requirements and any other termination procedures in the QFC Law and the employment contract.
The Labour Law also provides that an employer may not terminate a female employee’s employment due to her marriage or her taking of maternity leave. It further provides that the employer may not serve notice of termination of contract during the maternity leave period or give the employee a notice period that expires during this period.
6. What other maternity entitlements exist under the QFC or Labour Law?
Some additional maternity entitlements under the QFC Law include the following:
* The maternity rights granted under the QFC Law apply to a female employee who is adopting a child less than three months old and, in such cases, reference to childbirth are treated as reference to the date of adoption; and
* A pregnant employee who, on the advice of a licensed physician, made a medical appointment to receive ante-natal care may take time off during the employee’s work hours in order to keep the appointment.
Some additional maternity entitlements under the Labour Law include the following:
* A female employee who is breastfeeding her child is entitled to a one hour nursing break, per day, for one year following delivery of the child. This is in addition to rest periods that an employee is also entitled to pursuant to other provisions of the Labour Law.
* The employee has the right to determine when she takes her one hour nursing break each day.
* The nursing break shall be calculated as part of the working hours of the employee and there shall not result in a deduction of her wage.
Note that this article is of a general nature only and is not individual legal advice and, therefore, should not be relied upon as such. Other laws or matters not covered in this article may apply to a specific situation. Clyde & Co accepts no responsibility for any reliance on this article.
Also, laws in Qatar (other than in the QFC) are published in Arabic and Clyde & Co accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions in translations upon which this article is based.

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