Recently, the government of Qatar has issued a number of directives, in view of this unprecedented time of uncertainty, in order to support businesses and allow them to run as smoothly as possible, while providing clarity and reassurance to the public.

A significant recent decision by the Council of Ministers sees 80% of company employees in most sectors working remotely from home, with the other ’key’ 20% working reduced hours (7 am – 1 pm). All meetings held between employees of public and private companies at their place of work should be distanced meetings using modern technology. The Ministry has stressed that ‘any infringement or violation of this decision will subject perpetrators to legal accountability’.

Those excluded from this decision include: Pharmacies and clinics; factories; maintenance companies; food and subsidised supplies retail outlets; E-commerce companies; telecom companies; banks; companies operating in State-run projects; restaurants; petrol stations and auto repair services; and logistic and shipping companies operating in ports, airports and Customs.

A few other decisions have also been issued, as businesses try as best as possible to operate with remote meetings and dealing with the fiscal year end.

Under Circular No 1 of 2020, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) sets outs instructions regarding public and private shareholder companies publishing financial statements. In accordance with Article 126 of the Commercial Companies Law No 2015, public and private shareholder companies must abide by these instructions:

  • The Chairman of the Board of Directors must provide a copy of the financial statement, the profit/loss statement, a summary of the report of the Board of Directors, and the auditors’ full report for the end of the fiscal year. These documents must be given to management prior to publication.
  • The Chairman must also give management a copy of the publication at the same time it is sent to the newspapers. The financial statements must be published in two local daily newspapers, at least one of which is in Arabic, and also uploaded to the company’s website.
  • The publication has to clearly state the company name, its legal form, and the commercial register number (CR).
  • The financial statements should be published at least 15 days before the general assembly meeting, after receiving approvals as per any other laws in the State.

As more and more businesses are now relying on video calls and other electronic means of communications, MOCI has taken a bold decision under Circular No 4 of 2020 which allows public and private shareholding companies to hold their general assembly meetings remotely. It also allows for those attending such meetings to vote on resolutions and decisions via electronic means.

Any actions taken this way are regarded exactly as they would be in a face-to-face situation. As examples, board members can raise hands during a video call to vote in favour of a decision, or sign a document which is later sent in paper form with the signature.

As per every year, the Council of Ministers has released a decision stipulating the specified working hours for the holy month of Ramadan – for private sector companies and stores this is 9 am – 3 pm. There are a number of exemptions, similar to the 80/20 rule above. Others include: shops selling sweets (candy), coffee and dates; delivery companies through electronic applications; maintenance workshops for agencies; bakeries; companies in the hotel sector; factories; and maintenance companies (eg plumbing services, electricity and electronics).

MOCI has additionally issued Circular No 21 of 2020 exempting the contracting and construction sector from the above decision, provided the following conditions are met:

  • The body temperature of all employees must be measured twice a day and any worker with a high body temperature must be isolated.
  • There is a list of elderly workers and employees with chronic illness conditions.
  • Employees comply with safe distancing measures both in the workplace and at home.
  • Employees must wear masks and use sterilisers both at work and at home.
  • Companies abide by working hours and shift requirements and ban gatherings in workplaces and homes.

On 26 April the Council of Ministers issued a circular requiring employees in the public and private sectors whose work requires them to provide services to the public to wear masks while performing their duties. Shoppers and customers must do the same. Government and private sector officials must take all necessary measures to prevent the entry of any customer or client who is not wearing a mask.

With the authorities in Qatar hot on the heels of any company in violation of these regulations for public safety, it is imperative business owners remain vigilant. More information can be obtained from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry at https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/, and The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) at https://www.adlsa.gov.qa/en. For all the updates about COVID-19 in Qatar, visit https://www.marhaba.qa/covid-19/