Emiri Decree No.(80) of 2011 (Decree) was published in the Official Gazette on 15 January 2012 and with its publication the majority of employees in Qatar were granted a new public holiday, however this particular public holiday is a public holiday with a difference; it is in fact a National Sports Day. The Decree provides that Ministries, Government Departments, public sector institutions as well as other organisations, including those in the private sector, shall organise sporting activities on this day for their employees to participate in. The Decree also provides that Qatari’s National Sports Day will be held on the second Tuesday of February in each year; this year that means Tuesday 14 February.
Companies in Qatar have already embraced this new initiative and various sporting activities have been planned; football tournaments and cricket matches would appear to be amongst the most popular.
Sport is material to Qatar’s national vision. Qatar’s success in attracting and subsequently hosting the 2006 Asian Games and more recently the 2011 Arab Games has enabled it to develop this vision further culminating in a very high profile and successful bid to bring the FIFA World Cup to the Middle East for the first time in 2022; this latter success has also provided a firm basis for Qatar to launch its bid to host the 2020 Olympics.
The National Sports Day is an indication of Qatar’s commitment to incorporate sport into everyday life. Initiatives such as the National Sports Day will perhaps motivate people to engage in sporting activities which they may not usually engage in either because they do not have the time or the opportunity. Initiatives such as these will also highlight the importance of physical education, a greater awareness of healthy living with particular emphasis for school children and young adults.
The National Sports Day is the second public holiday to be introduced in as many years. Council of Ministers Decision No.(33) of 2009 (Decision) which took effect on 30 August 2009 provided for a new public holiday on the first Sunday of March of every year.
The Decision amended Emiri Decision No.(29) of 1996 and Council of Ministers Resolution No.(6) of 2008 (Resolution), both of which set out the various public holidays applicable to the employees of Qatari Ministries and other Government bodies, the public authorities and institutions of Qatar and the Qatar Central Bank (QCB), and the financial institutions it supervises, namely the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) and the Qatar Securities Market (QSM).
The Resolution initially sets out the public holidays applicable to employees of the QCB, QFMA, and QSC:
- Eid Al-Fitr, 3 days (QCB Governor to determine when the holiday commences);
- Eid Al-Adha, 3 days (day 9 of Dhu Al-Hijjah, month 12 of the Islamic lunar calendar);
- National Day, 18 December (previously 03 September, but changed in 2008); and
- Financial Year Closing, 01 January.
It was to these employees that the Decision added a new public holiday; unsurprisingly given the business sector the employees work within this holiday is sometimes referred to as a Bank Holiday.
The Resolution also sets out the public holidays applicable to the employees of the Qatari Ministries and other Government bodies:
- Eid Al-Fitr, from day 28 of Ramadan to the end of day 4 of Shawal (month 10 of the Islamic lunar calendar which commences on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr);
- Eid Al-Adha, from day 9 to end of day 13 of Dhu Al-Hijjah; and
- National Day.
Finally the Resolution sets out the public holidays applicable to the employees of the public authorities and institutions of Qatar:
- Eid Al-Fitr, from day 28 of Ramadan to the end of day 4 of Shawal for public authorities and the end of day 3 of Shawal for public institutions;
- Eid Al-Adha, from day 9 to end of day 13 of Dhu Al-Hijjah for public authorities and the end of day 12 of Shawal for public institutions; and
- National Day.
Depending on which days of the week these public holidays fall (eg. if they fall on a Friday and/or Saturday and/or another public holiday day) it is likely that a day before or after will be allocated as a holiday day, and the number of days separating two such public holidays will determine exactly how many days employees are allocated.
For the sake of completeness mention should be made to Law No.(14) of 2004 (Labour Law) which sets out the public holidays applicable to the majority of private sector employees:
- Eid Al-Fitr, 3 working days;
- Eid Al-Adha, 3 working days;
- National Day, 1 working day; and
- Employer specified, 3 working days one of which is often added to the Eid Al-Adha holiday making 4 days and referred to as the long Eid holiday.
The Employment Regulations of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) mirror those of the Labour Law in terms of public holidays although it is interesting to note that QFC employees also enjoy the Bank Holiday.