Travel, lifestyle, family.

How I quit my job, and the important lessons I’ve learned about working in Qatar.

21 October, 2020
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As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, I have recently quit my job. It was my own decision, even though I did feel forced to do it. I consider myself a dedicated employee and a person who doesn’t take their work responsibilities lightly (Type A, hellooo…). That definitely made me stay much longer than I should have, given the circumstances.

Did you know, that according to the statistics, 57% of employees who resign don’t leave their company but, in fact, leave their manager? You can read more about this phenomenon HERE. That was my case as well. And since my line manager also happened to be the General Manager of the company, I could see absolutely no prospects of the situation improving in the future.

I know you must be extremely curious about what has actually happened. Unfortunately, since my blog is public and some people know where I used to work, I will not be able to disclose any juicy details here – Qatari law is quite strict when it comes to stuff which people write about individuals or organizations on a public forum. But, of course, feel free to reach out to me in private, if you think that knowledge of my exact situation could help you in any way.

Being a lawyer specialized in labor law (not Qatari, but certain main principles are very similar everywhere), there are some things that I simply cannot and will not tolerate in the workplace.

Anyway. Basing on my recent experience, I put together a list of “DOs” and “DON’Ts” to help you keep your situation at work clear from the beginning.

As well, I gathered the most important (in my personal opinion) things that should be discussed during a late stage of negotiations of any potential employment opportunity in Qatar.

DOs

1. Read your offer letter thoroughly before signing it!

This might sound like something very obvious, but many people tend to skim through it and regret it later. It is especially important if you’ve never been working in Qatar before. You might think that some provisions put there are normal in this country, while in fact, they might work to your disadvantage later on.

There are two main things that need to be checked:

ensure that the main points of your offer are in accordance with the labor law. REMEMBER! Labor law states the minimum rights of an employee. Employer can always be more generous, but they should never offer less than the law states! Obviously, in case of the latter, points which are contradicting the law will be considered invalid, but removing them upfront could save you a lengthy fight for your rights later on.

ensure that whatever you discussed during your interview is reflected in the offer letter. Some employers are quite sneaky. They would promise you mountains of gold during an interview and then try to trick you into agreeing to less favorable conditions. Or there could be a simple miscommunication between the person who conducted the interview and the person who prepared an offer (human error). Whichever it is – it will work to your disadvantage later on!

2. As soon as you start work, request the following:

a job contract to sign (you can’t work indefinitely based on the offer letter only, it’s not specific enough).

your job description, an official one, coming from the HR Dept. (without it, you’re risking being forced to do things outside of your scope of responsibility).

a joining report to sign, especially if you’re joining mid-month (to avoid issues with calculating your first salary later on).

3. If you’re taking over an existing position, make sure to receive a proper handover.

The best way to do this would be to sign a special “handover document” provided by the HR. In most companies, an employee who’s leaving is required to have this form signed off by his/her replacement. It is also important to gain access to the leaving person’s computer (or at least work email) in case anything has been missed during a handover. Your job might be tough at the beginning, so you will want to make it as comfortable for yourself as possible.

4. Push your employer to finalize your visa transfer (or work permit procedure) as fast as possible.

Until they do, you are technically not legally employed by the company and therefore at higher risk of being taken advantage of. For example, they can’t transfer your salary via the WPS (Wage Protection System) until you become their employee in accordance with the law.

5. Be vocal about your rights.

And I don’t mean: fight with everybody over everything. Rather: speak up (politely and professionally) if something is happening which you feel might be breaching your rights or might put you in an unfavorable position. It could be anything from burdening you with extra responsibilities completely outside of your job scope, or working extra hours without any benefit, to asking you to sign a document in which you agree to a salary cut. IMPORTANT: choose your battles! Don’t argue with your boss every time he does something you don’t agree with. It should be about your rights, not your preferences.

DON’Ts

1. Don’t stay silent if you’re subject to bullying.

This is a very tricky subject, as for some people the line between being bullied and being criticized is a very thin one. As unpleasant as criticism might feel, there’s nothing wrong with it (unless it’s presented to you in an extremely unprofessional way). To give you an example, if your boss calls you to his office and tells you “Your performance in the last quarter was very bad.” – he’s criticizing you (although he could have done it in a much more professional way…). BUT, if they ask you, in front of your colleagues, “Do you know how many people would love to have your job?!” – that’s bullying at its finest.

It is very important that, as soon as you realize what’s happening, you start documenting those kinds of behavior. List every example separately, with details including: date, time, exact circumstances, and witnesses. Later you can use it if you choose to complain to higher management or the HR. I also found that with certain types of bullies it is enough if you show them that you are able to stand up for yourself and won’t go down without a fight. In such a case many will stop their behavior, deciding that it’s not worth the effort (as crazy as it might sound, this comes directly from the experience I gained while working in Qatar!).

2. Don’t accept too many new tasks only because the company is understaffed, or because nobody else wants to do them.

I know that some might see it as a chance to prove themselves to the management, however, in the long run it doesn’t make much sense. Taking too much on yourself will make you lose focus on your main responsibilities, might lead to more mistakes AND there’s a good chance those tasks will stay with you forever and become incorporated into your job.

You might wonder: “ok, but how do I refuse without upsetting my boss?”. It is not easy, but it can be done. 🙂 After assessing the request and making sure it’s really something you don’t want to get stuck with, approach your boss (because let’s make this clear: only your line manager should be allowed to assign anything to you). Provide him with some context – mention how many open tasks you have at the moment, and their priority. Politely let them know that taking up any more heavyweight tasks might negatively affect your overall performance. Or, if you’re not feeling comfortable with refusing completely – select some aspects of the extra task that you can help with, but indicate that you won’t be able to do the whole thing by yourself.

3. Don’t agree verbally on anything – always ask for a written confirmation.

As convenient as it might seem to agree on things in a workplace verbally, it bears a risk of backfiring in a major way. It happened to me, to my colleagues, and to countless other people working in Qatar. I’m not saying here that all employers who confirm things verbally will later deny it, although some definitely will. But even if they have the best intentions, things happen. Nobody can guarantee you that the manager who promised you a raise won’t leave in the meantime. How can you make sure that other parties in your company respect someone’s verbal decision? Etc. etc.

What to do if people in question for any reason refuse to provide you things you agreed on in writing? Unfortunately, it’s difficult to force them to do it, without creating tensions and putting yourself in a bad position. What I usually do is follow up every significant conversation with an email, out of my own initiative. I usually start with something like “As discussed today…” and then list all major aspects of the agreement. It kind of corners the person, but in a polite way 🙂 If they don’t reply – it implies they agree with what you wrote.

4. Don’t accept an unreasonable salary split (your basic salary vs. various allowances).

This is very important. Many workers are not aware that their end of service gratuity calculations considers ONLY the basic salary, excluding any kind of allowances. Let’s say that your total salary is QAR 10,000. Out of this QAR 7,000 is the basic and QAR 3,000 are various allowances. When you leave the company, they will compute the gratuity based on the QAR 7,000 only. I don’t need to tell you what will happen in the above case if your basic is QAR 3,000 and allowances stand at QAR 7,000.

Make sure that your employer is not asking you to sign off some ridiculous split in your offer letter. A lot of people look only at the total and when it matches – they happily sign the whole offer (this happened to my very own husband in his first job in Qatar, many years back).

Things to negotiate before signing an offer letter.

Many people get so excited about the job opportunity (or anxious during an interview), that their negotiation is not very effective, and leaves out lots of things that they will only remember about later, once the offer is already signed. REMEMBER that Qatar labor law will apply to your contract to grant you the minimum rights, so if you wish to negotiate something more for yourself – it has to be stated in the contract directly. Below are the things I’m always trying to remember to ask about, to make sure I’m on the same page with the employer:

1. Working time and permitted breaks.

According to the labor law, the maximum working time per week for anyone working in Qatar is 48 hours (considering a maximum of 8h per day). This means that technically speaking having only 1 day off per week is perfectly legal. Many expats don’t even suspect that as in most countries it’s something normal to have a two-day weekend. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, always ask about timings during your interview.

Make sure you’re aware of the company’s approach towards work time. I personally prefer to work in organizations that won’t force me to be at work at 8am sharp, “just because”. Some managers care about having the actual work done, while some insist that the employee sits in the office from 8 to 5 every day, regardless of what he or she is doing during that time. The latter was the case with my most recent employer, and it made me feel like a kindergartner who needs to be controlled all the time, because otherwise they will surely try to cheat… It felt offensive as it implied everyone (myself included) will always do their best to avoid work as much as they can.

2. Paid leave days and related benefits.

Here again, many employees assume they are entitled to a month of vacation after each year of work. And again, it’s not correct. Labor law states the minimum, which is 3 weeks of leave. Yup, 21 days. So unless your job offer states otherwise, this is what you get!

If you have experience in working in Qatar, you would have noticed that most big companies here have a grading system, where the number of paid leave days (and other benefits) match each employee’s grade. In such a case, make sure what is the grade of your position and educate yourself about all benefits.

While enquiring about leave days, make sure to ask about other related stuff, such as entitlement to a plane ticket (is it only for you, or for your whole family? Economy or business? Fixed-rate or per current fare on the route to your home country? Can you take it in cash or will the company book for you? Etc.).

3. Health insurance.

It is customary for an employer to issue a Health Card for the employee. However, some companies are willing to provide their employees with private health insurance. If that’s the case, make sure you check what does the plan cover (again, that might depend on your grade), and whether it will cover your dependents, or only yourself. Sometimes, if you’re not happy with the coverage, your company will allow you to extend it for a small yearly fee.

4. General leave policies.

Apart from the paid annual leave, what other leaves are available in your workplace? Is there casual leave? Compassionate leave? Extended maternity leave? What about internal policies regarding sick leaves?

5. School allowance.

All you parents out there will agree with me that this is SO IMPORTANT, given the price of private schools in Qatar! It is desirable that the employer covers at least part of that expense. Make sure you ask what is the maximum amount the employer is willing to cover, and for how many kids. And if they don’t cover it at all – don’t feel shy to ask for it. 🙂 The worst thing that can happen at this stage is them telling you “no”.

6. Incentive / bonus policy.

Don’t take receiving a bonus for granted. In many companies, it is not given automatically to all employees and will depend on a positive performance review (a correct approach, in my humble opinion!). Remember to ask whether it’s given on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. Some companies replace it altogether with monthly incentives. Make sure what is the policy in the company you are considering working for.

7. Any perks that come with the company or position.

This can be anything, from getting a company car or accommodation, to special kinds of allowances, discount cards, etc. Ask a general question and see what they say.

Qatar labor law has undergone lots of changes recently, which are aimed to make the lives of people working in Qatar easier. I wasn’t able to find a consolidated version of the new law (even the one on the Ministry’s website is outdated :D), but I did find a good article on this subject – you can have a read HERE.

Well, that should cover it… I hope what I wrote will prove helpful. If you have any specific questions, you can always drop me an email at joanna@mamaintransit.com – if I can, I’ll try to help!

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