Qatar: Wage Protection System to Protect Foreign Workers Nears Launch

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By Jenny David

Oct. 26— Qatar's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and its Central Bank will introduce the government's repeatedly delayed Wage Protection System for foreign workers Nov. 3.

Modeled on similar systems in other Gulf states, Qatar's WPS aims to strengthen company compliance with Qatari labor law and reduce the number of payroll-related legal disputes. An estimated 50,000 companies will be affected by the change.

Employers Responsible for Employee Registration

The system requires employers to pay salaried workers by electronic bank transfer every two weeks or monthly in order to ensure that payments are made fully and on time. Expatriates currently receiving their wages in another country must open a local bank account and agree to be paid in Qatari riyals.

Employers will be held responsible for registering all existing and new employees with WPS and for the accuracy of all personnel information, particularly salary details, and will be given one month to open a bank account and arrange visas for all new employees.

The ministry will compare employer filings with official records such as visas, employment contracts and salary details to ensure wages are paid correctly and only to holders of valid visas.

Companies that violate the new regulations could be fined up to 6,000 riyals ($1,650) per infringement; have their visa quotas restricted, reduced or blocked; and be banned from future hiring. Company managers could also face imprisonment.

Computerized Compliance

To be compliant, companies must enroll in the WPS system through a domestic bank and prepare to process salaries automatically through its online banking system or through submission of a transfer file by Nov. 2. The transfer file must provide company name, account information, relevant employee data and such salary information as payment month and year and total amount and number of transactions. A transfer file must also include an accounting of workdays and any extra hours worked

In the future, the ministry and the central bank will also require a breakdown of wages into basic salary and benefits, as well as the details of any deductions.

Remedies for Rejection

WPS transactions could be rejected by the local bank, the ministry or the central bank if:

• they do not comply with the formatting standards,
• they show a discrepancy between the number of transactions and the number of employees on the company's visa roster,
• they include visa numbers that do not match the ministry's records or special characters not included in the WPS program,
• net salary does not equal basic salary + extra income – deductions or
• they include invalid employee or employer bank account details.

In such cases, a company's automatic transfers will be blocked until it can prove that it intended to complete a WPS transfer by submitting a full list of transfers, rejections, manual payments by check, employee confirmation letters or any additional proof requested by the ministry.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny David at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com