By Attorney Fajer Ahmed
This is a tough time for all of us. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I would like to start off with a big thank you from the bottom of my heart for everyone that stayed at home, the doctors that had to work in hospitals, every police officer on duty, every cleaner, driver that delivers goods, bank and stock exchange employees that still have to go to work, journalists keeping us informed, mothers and fathers that are being teachers to their kids, trainers that are posting live training sessions on Instagram, and every other person that just continues to spread positivity in an uncertain time.
It is okay to be afraid, but let us use this fear as inspiration to shift our lives to make the best of what we do have. Fear is a tool that gets us to reconsider where we are going. Kuwait, you have amazed the world.
It is okay also to be confused right now over your job position and status moving forward, and I am not surprised at the amount of questions that my team has to answer from employees. Here are the most common questions.
Cut in half
Question: My employer has forced us to work part time right now at the restaurant and has cut my salary in half, because I am doing half the hours. Is this legal? They have also changed my work.
Answer: An employer cannot change your salary or change your job position from full time to part time. An employer does have the right to move you to another store location, be absolutely flexible, it is hard times for everyone, including a business owner.
With that said, according to Article 28 though, the different work you are requested to do should be in nature with your job position. “The employer may not assign to the worker any task that is not consistent with nature of the work stated in the contract or that is unsuitable to the worker’s qualifications and experience on the basis of which the contract was signed with him.”
Question: My employer is forcing me on paid leave as I have accumulated leave for the last three years and I have not taken leave, can he do that?
Answer: Yes absolutely, an employer can ask you to take leave if you have accumulated it over the years, especially if it is in the companies policies that no accumulation is allowed. Most companies do have a policy for that. As for your leave days of this year, I know this might not seem fair at all, and my heart goes out to all the expats that are in Kuwait that have been working for years and not taking time off to see their families.
This is debatable in the legal world, I believe that the employee can only ask you to take your paid leave right now for this year, only if the company is in absolute distress, and this needs to be proven, i.e. preventing bankruptcy. This will be to your benefit as well, as this may mean that you have a stable job when all of this is over.
Question: My visa is about to expire and I cannot renew it, I do not want to be in violation and be deported.
Answer: Let me make it clear that the government is asking you to stay at home, so unless you are one of the minority that has to go to work, stay at home and no one will deport you for your visa being expired. Also the government is doing an amazing job and is being lenient right now with visas, as they know you cannot renew them.
Question: My employer is forcing us to take sick leave, because of the virus.
Answer: Your employer cannot force you to take sick leave if the company is shutdown, if the company is operating, like a shop for example, and if you are actually sick and cannot make it, then yes these days off may be considered as sick leave.
With all of the above said, I want to make three points clear.
- This is an unusual time, so be aware that the above may change easily in the foreseen future, as new laws or bylaws might be implemented at this time.
- Please be flexible with your employer, discuss things with him/her and try to negotiate what is best for you.
- Stay at home and stay safe.
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