Qatar’s impending social security law will affect all working nationals to varying degrees depending on the type of work. In an effort to better understand the implications of the new law that will come into effect in early 2023, team members from the Doha office of international law firm Crowell & Moring are shedding some light on what to expect. Michael Palmer, senior counsel, and Sarah Khasawneh, associate, provide key insights into the law’s impact on various categories of employees, as well as expected contributions, retirement benefit calculations and retirement eligibility.
1) What has changed compared to the old Pension Act?
All Qatari nationals, whether employed in the public or private sector, will now be subject to mandatory enrollment under the newly established pension scheme once the new Social Security Act comes into force.
2) When will the new law come into effect?
The new Social Security Act has been enacted to replace the Pensions and Retirement Act. It will take effect from the 3rd of January 2023, except for certain provisions specified by law that came into effect on the date of publication, 3rd from July 2022.
3) Does the pension scheme include self-employed Qatari nationals?
The new law allows optional enrollment for self-employed Qatari citizens under the new pension scheme. Self-employed Qatari citizens would have to pay contributions in the form of a 21% deduction from their monthly income.
4) Are there new surcharges?
The introduction of housing benefit is a new entitlement under the Social Security Act. Participants who have contributed to the fund for 15 years are entitled to housing allowance under certain conditions; ranging in amount up to QAR 6,000. The extra housing allowance is added to the basic salary for the calculation of the monthly premium or deduction for the participant and is included in the calculation of the pension allowance upon retirement.
In addition to the payment upon retirement, the employer remains obliged to reimburse the eligible participants for their entitlement to housing benefit during the first 15 years of service of the employee in the event of termination of employment due to death or incapacity for work.
5) How are the monthly contributions and deductions calculated?
The new pension scheme raised the total premium to 21% of the monthly salary, instead of the 15% premium prescribed by the old Pension Act. The employer must pay an amount equal to 14% of the total amount awarded to the monthly salary including housing allowance if eligible, and the employee is subject to a wage reduction of 7%.
6) What is the prescribed bandwidth for monthly pension allowances?
A minimum monthly allowance of QAR 15,000 is awarded to eligible employees working in the public sector; however, no minimum amount has yet been set for the private sector.
The pension benefits awarded will in all cases amount to a maximum of QAR 100,000 per month, except for those who are already effectively registered with an amount above QAR 100,000.
7) How is the new pension allowance calculated?
Under the old Pensions Act, the pension allowance was calculated by multiplying 5% of the last earned salary by the employee’s total years of service. Under the new law, the percentage will be reduced from 5% to 3% of the last earned salary.
8) How will the current hire be credited under the new pension scheme?
Newly enrolled participants can transfer up to 5 years of service before the effective date of the new Social Security Act; provided that the previous years of service meet the conditions of the pension scheme.
9) Retirement eligibility
Under the new Social Security Act, the minimum age for retirement has been raised from 40 to 50.
Duration of service
The minimum period required to be eligible for a pension has been increased to 25 years instead of 15 years. Those who have been employed for 30 years or more are eligible for additional benefits.
10) What is the impact of the new pension scheme on the year-end bonus and other employment rights?
Termination of employment is not yet regulated in the new social security law. However, under certain conditions, employees may continue to be eligible for termination of employment entitlements under the Labor Act (Law no. 14 of the year 2004, the Labor Act).
Under the Labor Code, employees may not be eligible to receive a termination tip if they are eligible for retirement or pension plans under a plan and the value of entitlement payments exceeds the value of the termination of employment entitlements to tips.
Similarly, under the new Social Security Act, eligible participants are not entitled to more than one pension or retirement plan. If more than one scheme applies; the employee is entitled to the higher value scheme.
11) Dismissal and misconduct
In the event that participation in the pension plan is suspended due to termination of employment and monthly contributions, before the age of 50 and as a result of voluntary resignation or termination for misconduct; the pension benefit is reduced by 2.5% for each year difference between the age of termination of employment until the age of 50. In such cases, the right to a pension remains dependent on meeting the mandatory 25-year premium.
Please note that at this time the Implementing Regulations have not been issued under this Act, nor have any other guidelines been issued by the authorities.