Qatar’s new regulations requiring employers to pay migrant workers via bank accounts will take effect in November 2015. This puts the country ahead of Singapore, where our Ministry of Manpower is not addressing a widespread weakness. Here, employers can choose to pay employees in cash, and it is fairly common for employees to report that whilst the salary slip may indicate one figure, the actual amount in the envelope can be a hundred dollars or so less.
Or the employee is not paid at all. And when the worker lodges a salary complaint at MOM, the boss insists that he had been paid. When the company practice is payment in cash, the matter becomes one of the employee’s word against the employer’s, often leading to no satisfactory resolution for the worker.
TWC2 has long argued that salaries should be paid through bank. That way, a bank statement will be evidence as to how much was actually paid to the worker and when.
Doha News reported 28 October 2015 that a law signed by the Qatar Emir in February will take effect on 2 November, following an extended grace period. It stipulates that employees should be paid in Qatari currency once a month and directly into a bank account. For some categories of workers, they should be paid every two weeks. Firms that flout the new rules risk penalties of up to one month in prison and a fine of up to 6,000 Qatari Rials (about S$2,300).
The newspaper reported that the state’s banking regulator, Qatar Central Bank, contacted all banks at the end of last year instructing them to be ready to receive workers’ wage files. It added that workers should be able to access their money (presumably through ATMs) at least five times a month for free before charges are imposed. Some banks and companies have said they plan to have mobile ATMs at labor camps (workers’ dormitories) to make it easier for their employees to withdraw cash for daily needs.
The new system will make it easier for the government to verify that workers have been paid correctly and on time.
Currently, Singapore has no workable system in place. It does not seem to be an issue of any priority at MOM despite the voluminous number of salary problems.
An earlier survey conducted by TWC2 found that One-third of male migrant workers aren’t paid what they’re due. Their salaries are either undercalculated, arbitrarily reduced through illegal deductions, or paid late. Another one-third did not have a detailed enough salary slip to verify if what they were paid was correct, leaving only one in three male workers polled by us reasonably sure that their salaries were correct and paid on time.