Qatar yesterday amended its residency laws to allow most foreign workers to leave the country without exit permits from their employers.
The new law allows most workers to leave the country without exit permits from their employers, Qatar said in a statement quoting Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs Issa Al-Nuaimi.
Employers will still be allowed to require up to five per cent of their workforce to request permission to leave, after submitting their names to the government "with justifications based on the nature of the work", the statement said.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) hailed the move as a "significant step" for Qatar, which committed last year to introducing sweeping labour reforms, including changes to the exit visa system.
"The ILO welcomes the enactment of Law No. 13, which will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of migrant workers in Qatar," said Houtan Homayounpour, the head of the ILO office in Doha, which was set up in April.
Labour and rights groups have attacked Qatar for its "kafala" sponsorship system, which is common in Gulf states where large portions of the population is foreign.
Qatar's system still requires the country's 1.6 million mainly Asian foreign workers to obtain their employers' consent before changing jobs, which the groups say leaves workers open to abuse.
The government's other pledged reforms include introduction of a minimum wage and a grievance procedure for workers.