Qatar Employment Law
Developments pursuant to the Qatar Labour Law No. 14 of 2004 (Qatar Labour Law) and the QFC Employment Regulations 2005 (QFC Regulations)
Can a fixed term contract be terminated by contractual notice in Qatar? Yes, the QICDRC decided in Preliminary Issues Judgment in Case No. CTFIC0020/2022 Xavier Roig Castello v. MATCH Hospitality Consultants LLC.
For those contracts subject to the Qatar Labour Law, until amendments made in 2020, there was no right for employers to terminate a fixed term contract, except for summary dismissal, given that prior to that time Article 49 provided only that service contracts of indefinite duration could be terminated with notice and without reason. In 2020, Article 49 was amended to no longer restrict application of termination with notice to contracts of indefinite duration, and for the first time allowed the possibility of notice without reason to be given to employees on either indefinite duration or fixed term contracts.
Interpretation of the 2020 amendment to Article 49 as applying to fixed term contracts was considered by the Qatar Court of Appeal in Case 2021/363 Qatar Foundation for Education Science and Community Development vs. Nawaf Khabbab Mejrn Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, where the Court of Appeal stated: “Whatever the case, the law allowed the contracting parties to terminate an employment contract for an indefinite period or a fixed-term employment contract according to the amendment by Law No. 18 of 2020 to the Labour Law without giving reasons.”
For those contracts subject to the laws of the Qatar Financial Centre, the QICDRC was recently called upon to consider whether an employer could lawfully terminate an employee’s fixed term contract with notice in accordance with Article 17(B)(4)(A) of the Employment Regulations. In its Preliminary Issues Judgment Xavier Roig Castello v. MATCH, the Court determined that provision in a fixed-term contract of employment for termination with notice by either party can constitute “mutual agreement of the Employer and Employee” within the meaning of Article 17(B)(4)(A).
Importantly, Justice Frances Kirkham; Justice Arthur Hamilton; and Justice Fritz Brand, in their Preliminary Issues judgment dated 27th November 2022, at paragraph 20 observed that foreign jurisprudence can sometimes be of assistance, but should “be used sparingly as a last and not a first resort”, proceeding to reference the Qatari national Labour Law at paragraphs 28 and 29, and the amendments made in 2020 to the Qatar Labour Law together with Court of Appeal Case No. 2021/363 Qatar Foundation for Education Science and Community Development vs. Nawaf Khabbab Mejrn Mohammed Al-Nuaimi. Their Honours reached the conclusion that this judgment confirmed from 2020 that it was legitimate under Qatari national law to terminate without cause an employment contract whether for an indefinite period or for a fixed term, and that there was no “reason in principle why the legislative intent behind the 2020 amendment to the [QFC Employment] Regulations should have been different”, thereby confirming the view that the mutual agreement referred to in Article 17(B)(4)(A) includes mutual agreement that the contract be terminated by notice prior to the fixed term, including agreement to that effect in the contract itself.
In summary, whether the employment contract is subject to the Qatar Labour Law or the QFC Employment Regulations, the above case law supports the proposition that a Qatar Labour Law fixed term contract may be terminated with the required notice before the expiration of the term and without reason; and pursuant to the QFC Employment Regulations, fixed term contracts containing an agreed notice provision may similarly be terminated before the expiration of the term.
Sonia Barber, Rafi Sajian and Salman Al-Ansari of Al-Ansari & Associates together with Barrister, Mr. Tom Oggs of 11KBW, successfully represented the Defendant before the QICDRC in Xavier Roig Castello v. MATCH Hospitality Consultants LLC.
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