If you plan to work in Kuwait, we advise that you know or familiarise yourself with the labour law.
8 September 2014| Last updated on 3 January 2018
There are 3 main legal codes, which govern labour conditions in Kuwait. The employment conditions of civil servants are regulated and overseen by the Labour Law for Government employees. Those working in the oil industry are protected by the Labour Law of Oil Sector. And those working in the private sector are governed by Labour Law of Private Sector. Unfortunately, people in domestic services, such as chauffeurs and maids, are not governed by any particular code and will have to rely on general principles of law.
Here we explain the Labour Law of Private Sector in Kuwait, which is divided into 6 sections:
Private Sector Labor Law
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MSA&L) enforces the private sector’s labor regulations. The law applies to all private sectors except for the following: domestic servants, workers on temporary contractors and workers working in less than six months. The private sector labor law also does not apply to employees whose employer’s head office is located outside Kuwait unless the company has a Kuwait branch office in which case Kuwait law applies. If the head office is located outside Kuwait and does not have a branch in Kuwait, the private sector law of the country where the head office is located will govern the immigrants working in Kuwait.
Contract of Employment
The employment contract contains the employee’s terms of service. A fixed time or indefinite terms of service may be given by the employer to its employees. Terms of service that does not exceed five years is considered a fixed time.
Private Sector Kuwait Labor Law indicates the minimum limit which terms of service may not fall. If a part of an employee’s contract gives him less benefit than his right under the law, he is at liberty to the minimum indicated by the law in the particular term.
Any employment contract may be verbal or in writing. In both cases, a contract must give you an idea about the description of the job, remuneration payable, date of appointment and the service length ( if fixed).
In case of dispute involving a verbal contract, either side can use circumstantial evidence to prove the agreed verbal agreement. Arabic is the language used for written contracts. A contract translated into another language may be attached but when resolving disputes, the Arabic version will be considered in a court of law.
An employee can be hired under probation status for a maximum of 100 days. This can only be applied by the same employer once for each of their workers. Contracts that are still under the probation days can be terminated without prior notice. An accumulated compensation will be given to the employee.
Remuneration & Deductions
Basic pay, commissions, obligatory bonuses, incentives, gratuities from the third parties and employee benefits such as housing allowances is included in the remuneration. Allowances on account of expenses and profit shares are not included in the remuneration. If the employee’s contract or the firm’s by-laws include bonus payment or if the same amount has been paid regularly every year, the company is obliged to pay the workers’ bonus.
The content of the remuneration is very significant. In case of injury, the amount included in the remuneration is used to compute the terminal compensation or indemnity. The payment may vary based on the payment type of the worker. If an employee’s salary is paid on based on number of hours worked, the company will use the last salary payable. If an employee’s salary is based on the piece-worked, the company will compute the average wage of the amount payable to the employee for the last three months.
No minimum wage is stated in the private sector labor law. A monthly salary should be paid for hired employees. Salaries can be given every two weeks for piece-workers and workers who are under the hourly and weekly wages. If a subcontractor failed to pay their workers salaries, each worker may demand payment from their employer’s superior contract. This is true for cases when the employer’s superior did not pay for the work done by the subcontracted employees. Payment for employees’ salaries and termination benefits is given priority before an employer’s other creditors when an employer declares bankruptcy.
Employer cannot compel their employees to purchase products they manufacture or produce. If a worker is indebted to his employer, a deduction to his salary can be made to pay off this debt but the deduction must not exceed 10% of his salary and interest may not be charged to the worker. When a third party debt is attached to an employer’s salary, only 25% of his salary may be deducted.
Eight hours a day and 48 hours per week is the required working hours for an adult worker. An employee must be permitted to have a one hour rest or break every after five consecutive hours of work. This one hour rest or break is not included in the computation of working hours. MSA&L can modify – either increase or decrease – these standard working hours in case to case basis. Employees working in a hotel are one example of those who have either less or more than the required working hour.
An employee has the liberty to enjoy one whole day off per week. This day off is without pay and is traditionally scheduled during Fridays. But this is not a legal requirement in Kuwait.
There are eight holidays a year where an employee is entitled to enjoy with full payment. These holidays are as follows:
One day on Hijri New Year’s Day
One day on Ascension Day
Two days for Eid Al-fitr
Two days for Eid Al-adha
One day for the prophet Mohammed Birthday (PBUH)
One day for National Day
There is another holiday which is the Liberation Day but for private sector it is not yet a statutory holiday.
Employees are entitled to take advantage 14 whole days leave every year for completing one whole year of service, and 21 days of leave every year after more than five continuous years of service. These annual leave does not include sick leave and official holidays. The employer is given the power to schedule the date of the employer’s leave.
The employee’s holiday pay must be given before he goes on leave. In calculating the amount due, the employee’s last salary payable before the holidays must be used. In case of employee’s termination of service, he is entitled to a cash payment in lieu of accumulated leave. This is irrespective of the number of years of leave due. Payment for the accumulated leave must be computed on the basis of the last salary payable on termination date.
An employee is entitled to a sick leave provided they have a satisfactory medical report for:
The first six days of illness on full pay
The next six days on three-quarters pay
The next six days on half pay
The next six days on quarter pay
The next six days without pay
This entitlement is the total entitlement in one year and not per period of sickness.
An employer may require his employees to render work overtime provided that it is needed and it has a written agreement or order. Below is the list of the overtime rates of pay:
1.25 times the basic hourly rate for excess hours worked on regular working days
1.50 times the basic hourly rate for all hours worked on the weekly day off
Twice the basic hourly rate for all hours worked on public holidays
Overtime is only limited to 2 hours a day, 6 hours per week and 180 hours a year and should not exceed 90 days in a year. Every employee has the right to refuse to render overtime work.
A female employee assigned to work a man’s job must be given equal compensation. Female employees have the same standard working hours as male employees but they are not allowed to work between 7pm to 6am. However female employees working for clinics, pharmacies, hotels, nursery schools, homes for the handicapped, airlines, tourist offices, theaters, and entertainment industries are allowed to work beyond the standard working hours. Female workers working in cooperative societies, public utilities, beauty salons, tailoring shops, banks and offices may work during night time but only until midnight. MSA&L may extend night-time working hours during Ramadan, on Eids, and public holidays. Transportation must be arranged by the employers for female employees working at night.
A pregnant woman is privileged to have a maximum of 30 days maternity leave before the date of delivery and 40 days after delivery. A pregnant woman can also be absent from work up to 100 days, consecutive or not, after the maternity leave but without pay. A medical certificate stating that the person is not yet fit to work needs to be presented as basis for the additional absences incurred after the maternity leave. This maternity leave will be forfeited on day-per-day basis until her annual leave are all taken.
A lump sum payment also known as termination compensation is given to employees when the employment is terminated.
Calculation of Termination Indemnity
For those who work within 5 years, for each year completed by workers they are entitled to a termination indemnity equivalent to 15 days compensation, and a 30 days compensation for each year completed for workers that worked for more than 5 years, but it is limited to one and a half year’s remigration.
For employees who are paid based on piece-rate, hourly, daily or weekly basis, a termination indemnity of 10 days compensation for each completed years of service for the first 5 years and 15 days salary payment for each complete year more than 5 years. This is limited to one year’s salary in which both cases of part years, pro-rated amount is calculated
Restrictions for Termination Indemnity
An employee who was not able to complete his five years of service is not entitled to any indemnity once he decides to resign. Any employee who resigns after working for five years or more in the company is given 50% indemnity. For employees who have reached their retirement age, which were disabled at work or died are given full indemnity. A full indemnity is also given to women employees who married while she is an employee and women employees who renders resignation within 6 months of marriage.
Disciplinary Notices & penalties
All related regulations for employees should be issued in a form of circulars or bulletins. These regulations must also be written in Arabic. Employees who have committed offense may be penalized if the regulation specifies that the offensive act is punishable. All penalties should be progressive but are limited as follows:
Each act of misbehavior is equivalent to one punishment
If the act of misbehavior is committed after working hours, outside the workplace and is not related to work, no penalty will be imposed.
If the penalty is salary deduction, it should not exceed 5 days per month. If the penalty exceeds the total amount of the employee’s 5 days salary then another 5 days deduction will be imposed on his next salary.
If the penalty is suspension from duty, it should not exceed 10 days per month
If the act of misbehavior was proven after 15 days, a penalty cannot be imposed
Employment contract will automatically expire at the end of the fixed period stated in the contract. If the employer renews the contract and the employee is willing to work for another period then same conditions will be applied.
If the employment does not state any conditions regarding termination of contract before the end of the fixed period, either party can terminate the contract. The party that terminates the contract must compensate the other. If the employer terminates the contract, the employee will receive compensation limited to his wage earned from the termination day until the end of the contract. If the employee resigns from his work before the end of his contract, employer’s compensation is limited to his actual loss.
If an employee has an employment contract with unlimited period, termination can be made by informing the other party in writing. The notification should be given 15 days before the termination. In lieu of notice, either party may pay the other an amount equivalent to 15 to 7 day salary.
If the employee commits any of the following:
Doing any wrongful act that results to a serious damages or loss to the employer
Continuously disobeys his employer’s instructions
Disobeys safety instructions at work given by the employer on each location
Has been absent of more than 7 consecutive days without any reason
Has been convicted of a crime affecting honor, honesty and morality
Commits an act against public ethics in the workplace
Assaults a fellow employee, employer or his agent at work or an account of work
Failure to perform his obligations under the terms of his contract or the labor law
Commits fraudulent activities to obtain work
Reveals secrets relating to his employment
An employer has the right to terminate an employee without prior notice and without paying the employee’s indemnity and compensation.
If an employer commits any of the following:
Fails to abide by the provisions stated on the employee’s contract or the labor law
Assaults his employee
Continuously endangers his employee’s health
An employee has the right to end his contract before it expires and without prior notice, collect his indemnity and no payment for the compensation will be applied.
If an employee dies, fails to perform his work or used all his sick leave, his contract will automatically be terminated. Indemnity will be paid for all these cases.
An employee’s contract is also automatically terminated if his firm or company:
Goes into liquidation
Merges with another firm or company
Is sold or inherited
The new owner has the right to indemnity while the employees may continue to serve the new owner while reserving his rights to indemnity for his previous service.
Health & Safety
Employees should be protected from physical hazards and occupational diseases at work. For this reason, employers are obliged to take necessary precautions to protect their employee’s welfare.
Employers are also required to do the following:
ensure the work area is clean and well ventilated, sufficiently lit and in good sanitary condition
supply first aids kits in visible areas and within reach of the employees. These kits should contain medicines, antiseptics and bandages.
MSA&L issued resolutions that contain all the detailed standards for these matters. MSA&L consulted the Ministry of the Public Health for these resolutions.
An appropriate transport should be provided by the employer to his employees working in areas not reached by public transport. An appropriate accommodation with drinkable water and means to obtain supplies should also be provided by the employer if his employees are working in areas away from populated areas.
If injuries are acquired by an employee during his working hours or his injuries are related to his work, the employer should report the incident to the local police stations and to MSA&L. The employee that incurred injuries has the right to treatment in any government hospitals or private clinic. This decision is based on what the employer thinks is suitable and the expenses will also be shouldered by the employer. An employee must secure a doctor’s report that states the period of treatment required, any disability caused by the accident, and an employee’s fitness to continue working after the treatment.
A full payment for the first six months will be provided to the injured employee during his treatment. Half payment will provided after six months until the employee dies, recovers or is proven to be permanently disabled.
An employee is entitled to a compensation for injuries related to work. The employee does not have to prove that the employee was at fault as long as the employee is not guilty of gross malpractice or injured himself intentionally.
An employee’s family will have a right to compensation if the employee’s injuries have caused him more than 25% disability or dies. Even if the employee is guilty of gross malpractice, the family will still continue to receive the compensation.
The amount of the compensation is based on the severity of the injury. When the injury results to dead, the compensation is equivalent to the total amount of 1500 days salary or more. The current legal blood money is KD 10,000. For employees with permanent disability, a compensation equivalent to the total amount of 2000 days salary or more will be given. One and one-third times the legal blood money will also be provided.
A percentage of what would be due for a total permanent disability is the calculated compensation for partial permanent disability.
Trade Unions and Dispute Resolutions
Trade Unions formation and activities are strictly controlled. Only one union is allowed to be established for workers in any firm or profession. An employee is not allowed to join more than one union.
To be a union member, an employee must be at least 18 years of age and have a certificate of good conduct from a complete authority. For immigrants, a valid work permit and a Kuwait work experience for 5 consecutive years is required to become a union member.
Kuwaitis are the only persons who have the right to vote in the union’s general assembly. Being elected in the executive board of a union is also restricted to Kuwaitis. Immigrants can only have the right delegated one of themselves as representatives in order to share their views before the executive board.
Collective Labor Disputes
A mandatory procedure should be followed if any dispute arises between the employer and all or some of his employees concerning work related terms. These mandatory procedures are as follow:
direct negotiation between employer and employees must take place. Once agreement is reached, it must be registered with the MSA&L within seven days
If there is no agreement, MSA&L will be requested by both parties to intervene
If the dispute is not settled within 15 days with the intervention of MSA&L, the dispute must be forwarded to the Labor Disputes Arbitration Committee in the courts. Once it reaches the court, the employer or his representative and the employee’s representative may appear before the committee. Each party is allowed to have a maximum of three representatives each. Any decision made by the committee is final and binding.
Individual Labor Disputes
In cases of individual labor disputes, the private sector labor law has laid down specific procedures to be followed for an individual to pursue a claim against their employers.
Any individual labor dispute should be submitted to MSA&L before the start of a law suit. The two parties will be called by the Ministry to have an amicable settlement. The Ministry will give both parties two weeks to reach a settlement. If no settlement is reached, the dispute will be referred to the Labor Court. The forwarded dispute will include the summary to the matter, evidences presented by both parties together with the Ministry’s own comments. The court will schedule a fix date for the hearing within three days and both parties will be notified.
The case will be heard in a summary manner. After the employment was terminated, a time limit of one year is given for filing cases. There is an exemption from the usual court fees for labour cases but if the employee loses then the court may order him to pay anominal amount on account of costs.
All regulations under the private sector labor law are issued at regular intervals. It becomes effective and binding once published in the official gazette, Al-Kuwait Alyoum.
MSA&L finalized a new labor law draft last July 1997. This includes changes in terminal indemnity, annual holidays, and sick leave. The number of sick leave was increased and the number of public holidays was extended to 12 Haj leave, compassionate leave and Idda leave for new widows. All these leaves are fully paid.
Salary payment is expected to be made mandatory within seven days of their due date and a new minimum wage is expected to be included in the new labor law. MSA&L announced in November 1999 that a revised draft law will be submitted to the Council of Ministers before the end of 1999 for approval.
Disputes and Civil Rights
Immigrants who experience difficulty in acquiring their work-related legal rights or other disputes can consult the Labor Departments at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. MSA&L has five labor departments. One of these departments handles labor disputes. Employees who wanted to file dispute should be directed to this department. The employee should provide the necessary documents that support the claim. The department then offer advice with regards to the case and follow the procedures mentioned on the previous pages.
Kuwait Trade Union Federation
The Kuwait Trade Union Federation is committed to prevent the abuse of immigrant or expatriate laborers. The Federation provides free of charge legal advices to laborers and assists them to take action against their employers.
Human Rights Committee (HRC) at the National Assembly handles complaints of any form and matter. Any complaints can be sent to the HRC through letter, fax, and phone call or by visiting the National Assembly building. If a person does not want to visit the National Assembly, he can call the Committee directly to discuss his concerns.
HRC focuses on immigrants who have a hard time in obtaining their passports from their employers. Immigrants are required to send a signed letter written in Arabic, stating the facts of their case, their civil ID, passport number, country of origin and the name of their employer. They can send it to the Committee by fax and will be treated in strictest confidence.
On the 21st of February 2010, a new hope was given to the emigrants working in Kuwait. The published labor law contains the updated provisions and amendments that are proven beneficial and appropriate for employees and their employers. Salary, public holidays, paid leave, sick leave and end of service payments are some of the amended provisions that was approved by the National Assembly last 2009 and was then sent to Kuwait Cabinet. After Kuwait Cabinet’s approval, it was then sent to His Highness the Amir for endorsement. Unfortunately, domestic workers in Kuwait will not come under this rule.
The new labor law mandates that before the 7th of each month, the salaries of all employees should be sent to the banks. All employees are also entitled to paid leave on all official holidays, a day off every week, and an annual leave of up to 30 days even during the first year of work. Article 17 grants 21 days paid Hajj pilgrimage leave to employees who have spent two consecutive years in service under the same employer and have never previously performed the Hajj pilgrimage. Employees are also granted leave on all the 13 days of public holidays. If workers are asked to work during these public holidays, a bonus of half-a-day’s salary must be given in addition to a full day’s pay.
Based on Article 51 of the labor law, a worker will get complete end of service compensation at the end of the contract period. This payment is equivalent to 10 days pay for the first five years. It will then increase to 15 days pay from the sixth year. The employee is entitled to full indemnity if the contract is terminated by the employer, or the employment contract ends without being renewed. A female employee can get full indemnity if she terminates the contract from her side due to marriage within a year from her marriage date.
Based on Article 53 of the labor law, an employee who resigns from his work still deserves part of his compensation. Half month’s salary for every year of service is given as compensation for those who worked for more than three years but less than five years. Seventy-five percent of the monthly salary for every year is given to employees who worked for more than five years but less than 10 years of service. Lastly all employees who served for more than 10 years are entitled to get a full month’s salary as compensation for every year of service.
On Working Hours:
With regards to working hours, the new labor law specifies that women are not allowed to work beyond 10:00 pm and before 7:00 am with an exception for those who worked in treatment homes or institutions. Women are also prohibited to work on hazardous jobs. The labor law also stipulates that employees are only allowed to work for 8 hours a day which includes a long break of up to one hour. Workers should work for six days per week and if they work on Friday, they are granted a day and half’s pay and a day off during the following week not including the following Friday.
Regarding employee leave benefits, a worker is entitled to a sick leave for 40 days. This includes full pay for the first 10 days, 75 percent pay for the next 10 days, 50 percent pay for the following 10 days and 25 percent pay for the last 10 days. If an employee has already consumed his 40 days sick leave, he or she is still entitled up to 30 days of unpaid sick leave.
On Women and Children:
Under the new labor law, employment of a minor or an individual below 15 years of age is prohibited. The labor law also states that women who are pregnant are now allowed to take a paid leave. This paid leave can last until 70 days provided that they will give birth within that period. New mothers can also request for an unpaid leave of up to four months. The law prohibits employers from terminating female workers contracts during this period or if they are sick due to giving birth. When women go back to work after giving birth, the law states that she is granted 2 hours break from the normal working hours to nurse her baby. Employers who have 50 women or 200 men working in their establishments are required to set up a day care center for children below four years of age.
On Health Benefits:
Accidents are very common in work places tht is why the new labor law includes some health benefits like granting full salaries for the whole recovering period of an employee who meet with accidents while working, on their way to work and from work provided that the period of recovery is certified by a physician. If the recovery period will take more than six months, the employer will have to pay only half of the salary until the employee recuperates from his injuries, dies or his/her handicap is confirmed.
When it comes to termination of contract, the new labor law declares that a three month notice must be given with proper reason stated by the employer before breaking an employee’s contract. An employer is not allowed to terminate workers that are currently on leave. For employees, the law declares that also a three-month notice should be given before a worker resigns from his current position.