If you plan to work in Kuwait it is important to understand their labor law. Kuwait labor laws are governed primarily by three legal codes. Employment conditions of civil servants are regulated by the Labour Law for Government employees. Do you plan to work in the oil field? Those who do are protected by the Labour Law of the Oil Sector. If you will be working in the private sector, you will be governed by—you guessed it—the Labour Law of the Private Sector.
Private Sector Labor Law
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MSAL) is responsible for enforcing labor regulations within the private sector. This applies to everyone in the private sector, except for domestic workers, those on temporary contracts, and employees who have been working for less than six months.
Private sector labor law does not apply to employees working for companies with a head office outside of Kuwait unless the company has a branch office in country. Immigrants who work in Kuwait will be governed by the private sector law of the country where their head office is located.
Signing Your Employment Contract
It is critical that you sign a written employment contract before accepting a position in Kuwait. Make sure the contract includes the employee terms of service, a clear description of your job, and states the compensation for the position (including base salary, bonuses, and other benefits).
It’s important to know your contract will be written in Arabic. While a second copy may be provided in another language, the version in Arabic is the only one considered authentic. Should you find yourself in a legal dispute with your employer, the contract in Arabic is the one you’ll need for court hearings.
Period of Probation
A probation period can last for a maximum of 100 days and can only be applied once to each employee. If you are under a probation period you can be fired with no prior notice, though you should receive financial compensation for hours worked.
Remunerations & Deductions
Your base pay, bonuses, commissions, tips, and other benefits (like a housing allowance) are included in your salary. Allowances based on expenses and profit shares are not included in remuneration. If your contract (or the company’s bylaws) includes bonus payment, you should be eligible for that bonus pay.
Remuneration matters, especially if you are injured on the job, because it is used to calculate your terminal compensation or indemnity. Payment may vary based on the type of payment you receive from your employer. If you are paid based on the number of hours you work, the company will use your last salary payable.
There is no minimum wage listed in the private sector labor law and you should expect to receive a monthly salary unless you perform piece work, in which case you may be paid every two weeks.
When it comes to deductions, your employer cannot force you to purchase products you make or produce, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Lastly, should your employer file for bankruptcy, it is important to know he or she is expected to pay employee salaries and benefits before settling with creditors.
The required work week in Kuwait includes eight-hour days and 48-hour work weeks. You are permitted a one-hour break after every five hours of labor (but the break is not included in your labor hours). MSAL can increase or decrease standard work hours on a case-by-case basis.
Weekends are cut short in Kuwait and employees are given a single day off without pay (most people opt for Fridays off). Unfortunately, having a day off every week is not a legal requirement in Kuwait, so be sure to check your contract before signing if this is important to you.
Now for some good news—employees in Kuwait enjoy eight days during holidays where they do not have to go to work and they are paid for their time. The holidays are:
- Hijri New Years Day (1 day off)
- Ascension Day (1 day off)
- Eid Al Fitr (2 days off)
- Eid Al Adha (2 days off)
- Prophet Mohammed Birthday (1 day off)
- National Day (1 day)
Liberation day immediately follows National Day and, though it is a time of exuberant celebration within the city, it is not an official holiday for businesses.
After one year of employment, you are allowed 14 days of leave annually. Once you’ve been employed five years, that number jumps to 21 days of leave every year. These days are separate from sick days and holidays, and employers have the power to schedule an employee’s leave.
If you are terminated from your job, know that you are entitled to a cash payout equivalent to your accumulated leave.
As an employee in Kuwait, you can take sick leave—but only with a medical record that supports your illness. You are allowed 40 total days of sick leave, and receive full pay for the first ten. After that, pay is reduced incrementally: 75% pay for days 11 – 20, 50% pay for days 21 – 30, and 25% pay for the last 10 days. If you use up all 40 days, your employer can give you up to 30 additional days of unpaid leave.
Your employer can make overtime work a requirement, but he or she will have to put the request into writing. Overtime rates are 1.25 times your salary for regular workdays and 1.5 if you’re asked to work on your day off. Overtime that is scheduled on holidays earns you double your current salary.
Overtime hours cannot exceed two hours on any given workday, six hours during any week, and 180 hours in a year.
Minor and Female Employees
The government prohibits the employment children under the age of 15.
Women should receive the same compensation as men for the same level of work and are expected to work the same number of hours in a day. However, women are not allowed to work a night shift—8pm – 7am—unless they are employed at a hotel, clinic, or pharmacy.
Women are allowed to work until midnight if they are employed by a public utilities office, bank, restaurant, beauty salon, or office. Employers are expected to arrange safe transportation for any woman working at night.
Pregnant women may take a total of 70 days of paid leave, but their delivery date must fall somewhere within the 70 days. New mothers also have the option of taking up to four months of unpaid leave.
Employers are prohibited from firing women during their maternity leave and, once back at work, nursing mothers are provided a two-hour break so they may nurse their babies.
Additionally, any employer who employs 50 women or 200 men is required to provide on-site daycare for children age four and under.
No one likes to think about getting fired, but it’s important to know your rights.
Both the employer and the employee have the option to terminate the employment contract. An employer can only terminate an employee without notice under the following circumstances:
- If the employee is found responsible for a large company loss
- If the employee obtained employment using fraudulent documents
- If the employee revealed company secrets that caused financial damages to the company
Whether it’s the employer or the employee, whomever decides to terminate the contract must compensate the other party for money lost during the notification period. For example, if you decide to terminate your employee contract, you could be held liable and forced to pay your employer what they would have earned during the remainder of your contract.
Your Safety & Health
Your employer is required to protect you and other employees from physical hazards and occupational, or work-related, diseases. It is incumbent upon them to ensure the workplace is clean and ventilated properly. First aid kits should be easily accessible and readily available to employees.
Transportation to work areas that are inaccessible by public transportation should be provided by your employer. Access to drinking water and proper supplies should also be provided to employees working in remote areas.
According to the Labour Law, employees are entitled to receive end-of-service compensation in full at the end of a contract. This amounts to 10 days of pay for the first five years of employment and 15 days of pay for those who were employed six years or longer.
As an employee, you are entitled to full indemnity if your employer terminates your contract or fails to renew it.
The law also states that any employee who resigns from work should still receive partial compensation. Employees who work for a company between 3 – 5 years can expect to receive half of one month’s salary. Those who work for a company between 5 – 10 years should receive 75% of one month’s salary, and those who were employed for more than 10 years can expect to receive a full month’s salary as compensation for each year of service.
Injuries that occur in the workplace must be reported to both the police and MSAL. If you find yourself injured at work, know that you have the right to receive medical treatment, at your employer’s expense, at any hospital or private medical clinic your employer deems appropriate.
You are also entitled to compensation for any injuries obtained due to your work, and your family can request compensation if your injuries cause a disability of 25% or greater. The amount of compensation will be dependent upon the extent of your injuries.
If you find yourself in a dispute with your employer, it is always best to try to negotiate a settlement of the issue between yourselves first. If you are unable to come to an agreement, you may register the dispute resolution with MSAL within 7 days.
If the two of you cannot reach a resolution, MSAL will step in and mediate. If, after 15 days, MSAL is unable to reach a resolution between the parties, the issue will be sent to court before the Labour Dispute Arbitration Committee where a decision will be made that is final and binding.