ISSUANCE OF NOC IS A WORKER'S RIGHT

On April 1981, Qatar enforced Law No. (5) of 1981 providing among others that "work visa shall not ‎be granted before a two-year-period since the last departure of the foreigner who had already worked ‎in the country". The Minister of Interior, in matters of public interest, may grant this visa without ‎abiding by the aforementioned period.‎

The 2-year ban under Law No. of 1981 appears absolute and only the Minister of Interior, on matters ‎of public interest, can relax the ban and grant visa to a returning worker.‎

Mindful of the baseless perception that the employment environment in Qatar has been a virtual ‎slavery in view of the absolute prohibition under Law No. 5 of 1981, the State, on 19 May 2004, ‎enforced Law No. (14) of 2004, otherwise known as Qatar Labor Law, where Article 43 thereof ‎impliedly amended Law No. (5) of 1981 by delegating to Employers the absolute discretion to grant ‎visa to a returning worker. Article 43 is hereby reproduced as follows:‎

Any condition in a service contract shall be void when it contains an undertaking by ‎the worker to work for the rest of his life with the employer or to abstain from carrying ‎out any craft or profession which may be carried out after leaving the work even if the ‎contract is agreed before the coming into force of this law. ‎

If the nature of the work allows the worker to know the clients of the employer or the ‎secrets of the business of the establishment, the employer may stipulate that the ‎worker shall not compete with him or participate in any undertaking competing with ‎him after expiry of the contract. Such stipulation shall be valid only if it is restricted as ‎to its duration and place and to type of the work to the extent necessary for the ‎protection of the legitimate interests of the employer. The period of such undertaking ‎shall not exceed two years. ‎

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The first paragraph of Article 43 expressly prohibits employers from engaging in employment slavery, ‎and the second paragraph provides a guideline where the employer may issue NOC to the worker. ‎Thus, if the worker knows the secrets of his employer's business the employer may stipulate that said ‎employee shall not compete with him or participate in any undertaking in competition with the worker's ‎employer. ‎

Article 43 expressly proscribes employment slavery, and it went further by giving guideline to ‎employers in the issuance of the NOC. Insofar as the law as it now stands, issuance of NOC has ‎now become a matter of right for the workers, only that the employers are given the same right to ‎limit the areas of possible employment of returning workers. The right of employers to impose ‎restriction is not without further qualification, for the law states that restriction will be valid only if it ‎is restricted in duration, place and type of work and such restriction cannot exceed two years.‎

In most civil and common law jurisdictions, Rules of Judicial Procedure provides for an action under ‎which a party to a "future" dispute may seek clarification under existing law or contract before violation ‎thereof is committed. This action is generally referred to as Petition for Declaratory Relief. While this ‎proponent is not quite familiar with the existence or absence of such procedure in Qatar, the most ‎proper recourse is to put to test the express mandate of Article 43 of Law No 14 via a similar petition.‎

Meantime, arguments in support of the express mandate of Article 43 should be elucidated so that ‎your collective voices may heard, and workers can now demand as a matter of right the issuance of ‎NOC by the employers, subject to the above limitations provided by law. Have time to provide your ‎most eloquent arguments or comments behind this endeavour.‎

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