Non-payment and late payment of wages is one of the biggest concerns to Qatar's migrant workersReuters

Qatar's government has announced labour market reforms designed to improve the treatment of foreign workers, although some of its most controversial practices remain in place.

New measures include restrictions on working outdoors in the hottest hours during the summer and a rule that companies must open bank accounts for workers and pay wages electronically.

Companies will also face sanctions if they do not transfer wages to employees within seven days of the due date, although the government did not specify the type of penalty that companies would face for breaching the law.

However, plans to replace the controversial kafala sponsorship system, which ties workers to a single employer, remain under government consideration.

"We know there is much more to do, but we are making definite progress," labour minister Dr Abdullah Saleh al-Khulaifi said in a statement.

As Doha prepares to host the 2022 football World Cup, its labour laws have come under increased scrutiny and faced criticism from international human rights groups.

A Guardian newspaper investigation published in September 2013 revealed that dozens of Nepalese construction workers had died amid allegations of mistreatment by companies.

The allegations were refuted by Nepal and Qatar but Doha has since pledged to improve labour conditions for migrant workers.

A statement from Qatar's Ministry of Labour said the government would launch an electronic complaint system and would build accommodation for 150,000 migrant workers, while upping the number of safety inspections at workplaces.

Yet the new announcements fail to address Qatar's most contentious labour laws and have been greeted by human rights groups as a missed opportunity.

The kafala system remains unchanged. Moreover, the system of "exit permits" also remains in place, meaning foreign workers find it extremely difficult to leave the country independently.

"There are tentative signs of efforts to improve enforcement of worker protections the number of labour inspectors continues to creep up and better language facilities have been installed in Ministry of Labour complaints offices, for example. But some of the measures announced are in fact just planned pieces of legislation which have not yet taken force, let alone had an effect on the ground," said James Lynch, a migrant workers expert at Amnesty International.

"Ultimately only fundamental reform will begin to address the abuse of workers. As a first step we are urging Qatar's government to be bolder and to commit to a complete cancellation of the exit permit requirement, a blatant human rights violation which they could and should get rid of immediately," he said.

Qatar's proportion of migrant workers compared to its native population is the highest in the world.

Its overall population soared 9% in the first quarter of 2014, as migrant labourers arrived to work on World Cup-related infrastructure projects.