Absconding is a legal term used in Kuwait more commonly than in other countries. Absconding from work is when an employee in Kuwait does not show up for duty at work without submitting a reason. I have provided many consultations regarding this topic and the reason for absconding differs from one employee to another. Sometimes an employee does not come to work for weeks on end because of a real-life or family death emergency.
With that said though, the law has criminalized absconding under certain circumstances. Even though this is not common in many other countries, the law in Kuwait aims to protect the employer. The country is also trying to avoid the large number of expats in Kuwait and illegal migrants.
More and more companies around the world are using technology tools to allow their employees more freedom when it comes to working hours, and therefore I do expect the dynamic of the laws to change in the near future as we develop a healthier work environment that looks at the end target instead of having the employee physically present x number of hours a day.
Here are a few questions that I have answered, which include tips on what to do if you have an emergency that is stopping you from getting to work.
Termination by law
Question: I have a family emergency and was not able to make it to work, I did not attend an entire week, and when I went seven days later, I was told I was terminated by law. Is this correct?
Fajer: Yes, under the Kuwait labor law, you are considered resigned if you do not show up to work for seven consecutive days. No matter what the emergency is, I would always call the workplace, and more importantly, email in writing that you will need to take time off. You do not have to know how much time off you need nor do you have to seek approval from your workplace if you are really dealing with an emergency. I would also email the HR office or manager, letting them know you are not attending because of an emergency.
Filing a case
Question: I filed a complaint against my sponsor at the shuoon, but he filed a case against me claiming that I absconded from work when I did not. I actually resigned. He would not give me my passport back, which he was holding illegally, so I filed a case at the shuoon. To my surprise, he had filed an absconding case against me. What can I do or what should I have done to avoid such a thing in the future? What is the punishment for absconding?
Fajer: Absconding cases are now becoming stricter in Kuwait towards the employee, and this unfortunately is being abused by violating employers who have other issues against their employees. They do not want to pay termination indemnity, so they might accuse their employees of absconding. How can you avoid this? 1) Always have your termination/resignation in writing. 2) If you do not want to go to work because your employer is violating your rights and it is not safe for you to stay there, then file a complaint first. Your employer will not be able to accuse of absconding if you have filed a case first.
The punishment for absconding in Kuwait is deportation. It is not looked into by a judge – you will be deported unfortunately.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmad