Qatar’s 2009 Human Resource Management Law & Practice

Background

Following the global tendency, public sector organisations all over the world began to reform in order to imitate the approaches characteristic for private sector organisations in the delivery of public services in order to overcome the economic pressures and address the ideas of innovativeness and flexibility (Truss 2008; Truss 2013; Chuang 2013). The problem is in the fact that in most countries, public sector organisations faced a challenge of changing their status as ‘model employers’ because of the necessity to minimise bureaucratic traditions and implement progressive practices in HRM (Boyne, Jenkins & Poole 1999; Truss 2013). Researchers state that many public sector organisations focused on the ways to modernise their employees’ knowledge, to upgrade skills, and to change employees’ attitudes and perceptions in line with the tenets of contemporary human resource development (Chuang 2013; Al-Kahtani & Khan 2014).

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It is possible to speak about the strategic change recently observed in the sphere of public organisations’ human resource management. Williams, Bjanugopan, and Fish note that this strategic change is logical because the organisations in the public sector faced a need for adapting to the social and economic changes through reforming policies (Williams, Bjanugopan & Fish 2011). Thus, public organisations in Qatar faced a problem of modernisation of the approach to human resource management with the need to focus on diversity, on the one hand. However, on the other hand, the implementation of progressive practices in HRM associated with the necessity to address the global changes in the sphere was complicated with the organisations’ focus on attracting primarily nationals (Williams, Bjanugopan & Fish 2011). As a result, improvements for Qatar’s used HRM Law was required and associated with changes in global tendencies.

In case of Qatar, it came to the notice of the government that some problems in the public sector’s approach to HRM were leading to the massive employee turnover, as employees left the public sector to join the semi-private sector due to the favourable terms and conditions (Berrebi, Mortofrell, & Tanner 2009; Williams, Bjanugopan & Fish 2011). According to Berrebi and the group of researchers, the Qatari government adequately reacted to the identified problem and conceptualised the idea of developing and implementing a new HRM Law in order to address the issue of the employee migration from the public sector to the semi-private sector through the introduction of new appropriate HRM practices (Berrebi et al. 2009). As a result, “Law no. (8) of 2009 promulgating the Human Resources Management Law [hereafter referred to as the HRM Law] became effective on 01 April 2009 and governs the employment of the civil servants of Qatari Ministries, other government agencies and public authorities and institutions” (Salt & Higham 2010, para. 1). The proposed law was intended to reform the approach to HRM in Qatar’s public sector organisations.

Qatar’s 2009 HRM Law should be discussed from the perspective of the configurational approach to human resource management because principles reflected in the Law demonstrate the focus on relationships between HR strategies and practices mentioned in the Law. Thus, according to Marler, the configurational approach is often used to explain “how systems, clusters, or bundles of human resource management practices interact with each other to have synergistic outcomes at the organizational level” (Marler 2012, p. 7). In this context, Qatar’s HRM Law can be discussed with references to the “horizontal fit” or “bundling” not only to emphasise the focus on alignment among multiple HRM practices (e.g., training and development, rewards and promotion, recruitment, performance management, etc), but also to concentrate on the strength associated with exposing employees within the public sector to a set of internally aligned HRM practices (Colbert 2004). Researchers assume that this typology was borrowed from the developed world, as Qatar and a host of other nations in the Arab world experienced difficulties with implementing such HR practices as training and development, organisational development, and career development effectively (Nair et al. 2007).

Justification for Implementation

The justification for the implementation of the HRM Law is based on the Qatari government’s need to modernise the public sector and ensure that public sector organisations and agencies are run professionally using applicable HRM practices. Specifically, as it is acknowledged in a report by the Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning, the HRM Law aimed to “reduce barriers to recruitment of a quality workforce, both Qatari and expatriate, and increase retention by raising worker morale and strengthening incentives (for example, making training and professional development opportunities available for all staff, as appropriate)” (Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning 2011, p. 115). Additionally, although Qatar’s public sector leads in employment of Qataris and operates as the sector of choice for new market entrants, it was assumed by the authorities that the introduction of the HRM Law and the attendant HRM practices (e.g., wage, salary and social allowance packages and pension schemes) would have far reaching effects in terms of encouraging Qataris to remain in the labour market and enhancing their participation in the public sector (Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning 2011; Williams, Bjanugopan & Fish 2011).

It is possible to state that the development and implementation of the HRM Law was influenced by changes in the economic environments in the country and globally that made the government focus on developing the effective HRM Law. Kamoche and other scholars indicate that a positive relationship can exist between the establishment of a sophisticated and efficient HR architecture on the one hand and the realisation of economic growth and development on the other (Kamoche et al. 2012). In the public sector management literature, it is stated that public sector employees are able to contribute immensely to the economic development of their respective countries when the prevailing HR practices and policies are able to, among other things,

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  1. secure the commitment and satisfaction of the labour force,
  2. ensure the adoption of highly flexible and innovative working practices, and
  3. establish a high quality of work by developing a skilled workforce (Onyemah, Rouzies & Panagopoulos 2010; Giauque, Anderfuhren-Biget & Varone 2013).

In case of Qatar, it is possible to state that the rationale for the development and implementation of the HRM Law was mainly grounded on sustaining economic prosperity through redesigning public sector institutions to become more forward-looking and focus on outputs and results rather than inputs, and also through changing performance standards and management systems by streamlining and repealing previous HR laws such as the Civil Service Law issued by Law No (1) of 2001 (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009; General Secretariat for Development Planning 2011).

Analysis of the 2009 HRM Law

Following the configurational approach, it is possible to state that policies, strategies, and practices discussed in the Law are interrelated. According to Salt and Higham (2010, para. 13), the 2009 HRM policy offers “considerable incentives to encourage high calibre employees into ministry, government agency, public authority and institutional roles which will expose them to opportunities to assist and advise on the future shape, direction and development of Qatar.” Thus, this section briefly discusses how such incentives are afforded to employees through the following provisions of the HRM Law: human resources planning and organisation, probation, compensation, holiday, resignation, discipline and termination, training and development, and employee performance management.

Furthermore, the section discusses identified practices in context of the configurational perspective. As it is stated by Colbert, “the configurational school in organisation studies follows a holistic principle of inquiry and is concerned with how patterns of multiple interdependent variables relate to a given dependent variable” (Colbert 2004, p. 344). Drawing from this elaboration, it is possible to investigate how the bundle of HRM practices such as training and development, rewards and promotion, and performance management was used to influence the employee retention in Qatar’s public sector, and also to examine how similar HR practices have acted to influence employees in terms of retention and satisfaction in the semi-private sector.

In relation to the human resources planning and organisation, the HRM Law states that the Government Entity shall “make the optimal investment in the available human resources, in order to achieve its goals, develop the individual capabilities of its employees and provide a safe and fair work environment” (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009, ch. 2, art. 2). Salt and Higham also summarise that the HRM Law elaborates on how “each Government Entity should organise itself in relation to, amongst other things, budgets, job creation, job description, categorisation, grading structures, start dates, recruitment including nationality and gender priority, appointment and the approval processes in relation to each” (Salt & Higham 2010, para. 2). Additionally, the HRM Law initiates an elaborate framework or structure through which public sector organisations within the country should not only plan and organise their employees and optimise the utilisation of available human resources to achieve the aims and objectives of these organisations but also develop the individual capabilities and competencies of employees with the view to maximising their own productivity as well as the performance of public entities (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009).

In the provision on appointment, the HRM Law elaborates that non-Qatari employees can be appointed under an employment contract, while Qatari nationals can be appointed through the use of various mechanisms including Emiri Decree, standard or usual form contract, specialised contract, renewable conditional lump sum contract, or any other mechanisms that may be floated by a particular public sector organisation and endorsed by a proficient body for such endorsement. The demographic, educational, health requirements for appointment into the public sector are also set out in this provision (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009; Salt & Higham 2010). However, the nationality factor can be discussed as one of most important because it is mentioned as the priority in Article 14 of Chapter 3 in the Law (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009, ch. 3, art. 14). From this point, appointment strategies are associated with planning and organisation practices because the focus on nationals is important in Qatar, and it is reflected in public organisations’ approach to job description, recruitment, and provision of opportunities, as it can be explained with references to the configurational framework (Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning 2011).

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In compensation, the HRM Law not only underscores the need to provide permanently employed workers with a compensation package that is commensurate to their own educational achievements but also develops the various components which make up employee compensation packages and demonstrates how the applicability, value and frequency of each employment component are determined by a whole set of factors such as the employee’s educational status, job title, marital status, and number of dependant family members (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009; Salt & Higham 2010). Furthermore, there is a strict separation between benefits and conditions provided for non-Qatari and Qatari employees, in addition to the segregation associated with the status and competence (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009, ch. 4).

The connection between the compensation and policy on leaves is also observed in the discussed Law because the focus on details associated with gender and nationality helps to accentuate the specific role of the employee in the public sector organisation as the representative of the public administration. In the provision on holidays and leaves, the HRM Law elaborates “the various periods of leave which employees may either take as of right (e.g., periodic or holiday leave); by virtue of their gender (e.g., nursing and iddah1 or waiting leave); marriage status (e.g., marriage or marriage accompaniment leave); or religion (e.g., pilgrimage leave)” (Salt & Higham 2010, para. 9). Furthermore, in the provision on resignation, the HRM Law is clear that an employee may resign from his or employment position in writing, and that a competent body within the specific public sector organisation will then consider the resignation within a thirty day period with the view to either accepting or rejecting such resignation (Salt & Higham 2010).

In the provision on discipline and termination, the HRM Law details the various internal disciplinary processes which public sector organisations in the country should adopt, develop and implement to effectively deal with employee issues. These practices are directly associated with the planning and organisation strategies according to the configurational approach because of the focus on human resources’ competence, job commitment, and motivation. The HRM Law points at the necessity of “internal investigations” and “penalties which may include deductions from an employee’s salary”, a reduction of grade, and ultimately dismissal in order to affect motivation (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009). The HRM Law also provides other grounds for the termination of employment contract, including reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60 years, expiry of any contractual arrangement, medical concerns, criminal culpability, and an Emiri declaration motivated by public interest (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009; Salt & Higham 2010).

In the provision on training and development, the HRM Law elaborates on how public sector organisations should develop their human resources by not only providing appropriate opportunities for training, development and qualification, but also demonstrating ways to set the annual training and development plan to ensure that training is done according to the prevailing priorities, needs and budget (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009). This provision will be reviewed in detail in the subsequent section. Lastly, in the provision on employee performance management, the HRM Law elaborates on how public sector organisations should use performance management systems not only to motivate individual employees, but also to reward them based on their performance in the public sector organisations. This provision will be reviewed in more detail in the subsequent section.

From this point, the HRM Law comes up with some of the most progressive HR practices, but it is possible to state that the Law fails to discuss fully how the best HR practices can be attainable within the public sector. Indeed, the emphasis on adopting a more strategic approach to HR within Qatar’s public sector demonstrates an emergent consensus that employees are an important source of competitive advantage and hence the need to develop and implement favourable HR practices to prevent or minimise their migration into the semi-private sector (General Secretariat for Development Planning 2011). However, it is not yet clear how some of the covered HR practices may be implemented beyond the simple descriptions provided in the HRM Law. For example, although one of the principle components of the training and development provision of the HRM Law is to provide employees with appropriate opportunities for training, development and qualification with the view to fostering and enhancing their capacities to improve their performance and qualify them to assume new responsibilities, there is no explanation whatsoever on how such a component is supposed to be attained or what guidelines should be reviewed to ensure the component is implemented within the public sector (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009). As a result, more collaboration on the indicated responsibilities is necessary in order to improve the policies discussed in the Law.

Review of Specific HRM Practices

Thus, the proposed study uses such HRM practices as training and development, rewards and promotion, and performance management in order to evaluate how significant Qatar’s 2009 HRM Law has been in influencing employee retention in the public sector. This section reviews the three HRM practices that are contained in the HRM Law in much more detail, in order to demonstrate that the practices and policies associated with competence and responsibility reflected in the Law are linked to the described strategies and policies associated with motivation of employees and their commitment, with the focus on the role of nationals and according to the configurational approach.

Training and Development

The main components of the training and development provision of the HRM Law include

  1. providing employees with appropriate opportunities for training, development and qualification with the view to fostering and enhancing their capacities to improve their performance and qualify them to assume new responsibilities,
  2. designing employee training and development programs in accordance to the strategic plan, the objectives of respective public sector organisations and performance evaluations reports,
  3. analysing the training needs of various public sector organisations to determine the capacities, competencies, and level of requisite skills and knowledge needed to enable employees to improve their performance with the view to achieving the goals and objectives of the public sector organisations,
  4. ensuring that public sector organisations provide training programs to fresh Qatari graduates of various educational domains to qualify them to the vacant posts,
  5. developing demand-oriented training programs and revise already existing training programmes to meet priority needs with attention to content, quality, and accreditation,
  6. ensuring that the graduate undertakes to work for the relevant public sector organisation which offered the qualification program for a period equal to that spent to successfully complete the qualification program, and
  7. providing incentives to employees for lifelong learning through retraining to enable them cope with the dynamic needs of shifting labour markets (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009; Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning 2011).

It is possible to state that these components are related to both economic and political areas; however, the main focus is on how changes in the political visions and traditional government’s approaches to regulating public organisations’ HR can influence the economic sphere of the whole state.

Thus, these components are consistent with the views held by various scholars on why training and development is a critical practice in HRM. For example, Kulkarni in the research published in 2013 mentions that training is a critical parameter for enhancing the capacity of the workforce for attaining both employee and organisational objectives, and that organisations should lay their focus on human resource development in order to develop the most superior workforce which assists them to achieve successive growth (Kulkarni 2013). In this context, it is possible to speak about the growth of public organisations as providing high-quality services and addressing the current needs of the society while responding to the domestic and global social trends.

On her part, Balatbat argues that training involves the “acquisition of attitudes, skills, and knowledge required for employees to learn and perform their jobs, improve on their performance, prepare themselves for more senior positions, and achieve career goals” (Balatbat 2010, p. 6). In addition, in their study, Drost et al (2002) conclude that training and development can be provided by organisations (1) as a reward to employees, (2) to improve employees technical skills, (3) to improve employees’ interpersonal skills, (4) to remedy employees poor past performance, (5) to prepare employees for future job assignments, (6) to build teamwork within the organisation, (7) to provide substantial initial training, (8) to help employees understand the business, (9) to provide cross-training, and (10) to teach organisational values. As a result, training, the development of employees’ skills, the increase in the commitment, and the improvement of quality are associated in terms of changed practices in HRM.

Rewards and Promotion

Available literature demonstrates that employee satisfaction, retention and organisational performance are to a large extent determined by a multiplicity of variables, including monetary compensation or financial incentives, well-designed employee benefit packages, merit-based promotion, opportunities for skills development, organisational prestige and recognition programs, and opportunities for career development (Fey, Bjorkman, & Pavlovskaya 2000; Gurkov & Zelenova 2011; Gkorezis & Petridou 2012). The Qatar government used this thinking to design a set of provisions that intended to encourage public sector employees through various rewards and promotion opportunities. In summary, these provisions elaborate that

  1. employees shall be entitled to increments allowances and other benefits as prescribed under the available compensation schedules,
  2. employees shall qualify for periodical salary increments of between 1% and 6% based on their job performance appraisal,
  3. employees shall qualify for annual incentive payment if they have reached the ending salary in the salary scale of their grade and if they continue to perform well in their performance appraisals,
  4. employee performance evaluations shall be taken into consideration when promoting staff, recruiting employees to supervisory positions, and awarding regular bonuses or any other performance bonuses,
  5. employees shall qualify for monthly social increments based on grade, marital status and dependants,
  6. promotion will be based on seniority and will be related to an increment in base salary, allowances, and work-related responsibilities, and
  7. employees shall qualify for a monthly transportation allowance based on grade.

Other incentives include responsibility allowance for senior employees, furniture allowance, representation allowance, travel allowance, and overtime allowance (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009). From this point, the rewards influence the employees’ attitudes and this aspect can affect commitment, while discussing it from the configurational perspective.

Fey et al (2000, p. 4) notes that “based on expectancy theory, it can be expected that if the company provides rewards desired by the employee in question, this employee is more likely to perform in a sway that will bring him/her the reward.” Drawing from the existing literature on contemporary HRM practices, it is evident that performance-based rewards and promotion are considered among the high-performance HRM practices and some of the strongest predictors of employee satisfaction, turnover, and organisational performance (Mann 2006; Smeenk et al 2006; Truss 2008), not mentioning that studies have found employee motivation and retention to be critical intermediate variables between a performance-oriented compensation system and organisational performance (Fey et al 2000).

In promotion, available literature demonstrates that firm-internal promotions based on merit, rather than seniority, are known to enhance employee motivation and employee retention (Johnston & Wang-Sheng 2013), that the availability career possibilities within the organisation tends to enhance a higher level of organisational commitment and motivation among employees (Fey et al 2000), and that an emphasis on internal promotion is likely to avail a sense of fairness and justice among the employees who acknowledge that internal promotions are valued in the organisation and are associated with low employee turnover (Fey et al 2000; Chen, Wakabayashi, & Takeuchi 2004; Johnston & Wang-Sheng 2013). It is important to analyse the achievements of the Qatari authorities regarding the development of the HRM Law because the statements presented in the Law’s article point at the direct correlation between the policies in rewards and promotion that can influence the employee’s attitudes and the whole work of the public organisation. Thus, a performance-oriented compensation system is effective to be used in public organisations in order to motivate employees to demonstrate high results and receive significant rewards.

Performance Management

Lastly, in the provision on employee performance management, the HRM Law elaborates on how public sector organisations should develop and implement a performance management system which is predicated upon the performance of workers and their administrative units, with the view to motivating individual achievements, facilitating continuous improvement process, boosting collaboration and team spirit, as well as attaining consistency of the individual practices and aims of the employee with the objectives of the public sector organisations (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009). Other key objectives of the performance management system include availing a basis to reward the accomplishment and achievement of employee outcomes and motivating continuous learning with the view to developing human resources.

Balatbat (2010, p. 6) states that, “in HRM, the process of determining how well employees are doing their jobs is called performance management.” Available literature demonstrates that performance management systems are important in the global arena as they (1) provide feedback to employees at all levels in order to know where they stand, (2) develop valid basis for critical employment decisions involving pay, promotions, job assignments, employee retention and termination decisions, (3) provide a means to warn employees about unsatisfactory performance and outcomes (4) help employees at all levels to improve their performance and develop their professional competencies, (5) diagnose individual and organisational challenges, (6) enhance commitment to the organisation through discussion of career opportunities, action plans, and needs for training and development, and (7) use recognition to motivate continued or improved high performance (Tsai, Edwards, & Sengupta 2010; Slavic, Berber, & Lekovic 2014). Therefore, it is possible to state that the practices associated with the performance management are in direct relationships with the practices on training, compensation and promotion because performance of employees is influenced by training and promotion principles, and it influences the actual outcomes that cause the employees’ compensation.

Conclusion

This section has reviewed the 2009 HRM Law in general and later concentrated on the specific HRM practices (training and development, rewards and promotion, performance management) that the study evaluates to demonstrate how effective the policy has been in modernising the public sector and increasing retention within the sector by raising worker morale and strengthening incentives. From the review, it is evident that the three HRM practices were developed and implemented to reduce retention and enhance the participation of Qataris in the public sector. Consecutively, the present study aims to evaluate how significant these HRM practices have been in influencing employee retention in the government/public sector.

References

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Balatbat, L 2010, Perceived interpretation of human resources management (HRM) practices and demographic variables of employees in private higher education institutions, Web.

Berrebi, C, Mortofrell, F & Tanner, JC 2009, ‘Qatar’s labour markets at a crucial crossroad’, Middle East Journal, vol. 63 no. 3, pp. 421-442.

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Footnotes

  1. “Iddah” – in Islam, the period to be observed by a woman after the spouse’s death or after divorce.
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