Employee Death-Employer Responsibility
Senior Associate, Corporate and Commercial.
Emma is a corporate and commercial lawyer with over nine
years' experience seven of which having been based in Qatar.
Emma advises on a wide range of matters associated with the
Tourism and Leisure Sector, but also on a broad range of
matters including, local establishment by way of joint venture,
banking and finance, providing regulatory advice in relation to
the establishment of businesses in the Qatar Financial Centre,
advising on IPOs, pre IPO funding corporate restructuring and
employment and immigration matters.
Despite the continuing development of Qatar's health and safety regulation and policy employees still die at work. With the increased number of people working in Qatar this trend has increased in the last 5 to 10 years. Partly as a result of such acceleration, accompanied by the high staff turnover which is usually associated with a large ex-pat work force, confusion exists as to the exact nature of an employer's responsibilities when an employee dies in the course of, but not necessarily as a result of, work and the process which the officials at the various Government agencies must follow. This article sets out some of the practical steps which an employer should be aware of when dealing with the death of an employee.
For the avoidance of doubt these practical steps constitute our experience of worksite deaths and therefore provide general points of note rather than an exhaustive list; on a case by case basis the steps may be applied “flexibly” depending on the identity of the employer, the government officials on duty at the various Government agencies, including the Ministry of Interior and Supreme Council of Health (SCH), and the time of year, ie. public holidays may delay or otherwise affect the steps which need to be taken. In summary, the first responsibility of the employer in relation to employee death is to review current regulations and up-date its internal policies periodically.
When an employee dies the employer should inform the Police and depending on the Police's instructions his or her body should then be removed to the nearest hospital. Where the employee dies in hospital it will be the hospital which will inform the Police. The attending Policemen will speak to the Doctor who attended the employee and/or his or her body and will then visit the employee’s work place and accommodation (which may be provided), in order to determine whether or not the employee’s death was “normal”, ie. that he or she died of natural causes and not as a result of anything the employer did or did not do. The Police will usually interview the work place manager and any other employees or third parties who may have been associated with the employee in the days before his or her death and where the Police are suspicious of individuals or practices, further questions may be asked and/or arrests may be made.
Where the Police have any suspicions at all that the employee’s death was not normal, they will forward their report to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) who will determine whether or not the employer is culpable in the death and therefore liable to pay blood money to the heirs in accordance with Sharia Law; blood money is currently QAR200,000. In addition to any blood money the Police and the PPS may pursue a criminal action against one or more individuals, eg, the work place foreman or the employer’s general manager, and it is only once this case has been settled, that the heirs may apply to the Civil Courts for additional damages. Where a civil application is made in parallel with the criminal case it is our understanding that this civil case will be left pending until after the criminal case has been settled. Heirs who bring successful claims outside Qatar against Qatari entities and wish to enforce such judgments in Qatar may do so through the Qatari Courts although for the purposes of this article the procedure is not dealt with in any detail here except to refer to the possibility.
If the Police determine that the death is normal their file will be passed to the PPS and the body released for transportation out of Qatar; under the provisions of the Labour Law it is the employer's responsibility to repatriate the employee's body to his home country (and pay the employee's heirs any monies owing under the terms of his employment contract). This will include all the various disbursements cost of the coffin and also the air flight. Where for whatever reason the employer does not repatriate the corpse, the Labour Department may undertake the repatriation and reclaim all costs from the employer. Where, for whatever reason, the employee or his or her heirs do not want the body to be repatriated, ie. to be buried in Qatar, the employer will have to apply for a repatriation exemption.
Before the employee's body can be released the employer will need to obtain a valid Death Certificate (Medical Report); a SCH Certificate; a Report from Criminal Evidence Department of the Ministry of Interior (in 4 parts to be given to the employee’s Embassy, the transporting Airline, Ministry of Health, heirs); and letter from the Labour Department confirming that the employee’s resident’s permit has been cancelled.
Who should be responsible for ensuring that the employer's responsibilities are satisfied when an employee dies? Someone senior; not only is this a very sensitive issue which will require empathy (and diplomacy) when dealing with close relations, this person will also need tenacity when dealing with the Qatari authorities and also internal leverage to obtain authorisation to release repatriation costs. Where an employee does not have any close relations in Qatar the same person will also be responsible for, amongst other things, sealing accommodation and notifying banks until such time as an heir, in possession of a valid heir's certificate arrives in Qatar to settle the employee's affairs. Liaison with the Qatari Government agencies will be the role of the employer's Public Relations Officer.
If you would like further information please contact David Salt email@example.com or Emma Higham firstname.lastname@example.org.