By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: Kuwait imposes an outdoor work ban every year from June 1 until August 31, which prohibits anyone from working outdoors in direct sunlight between 11 am and 4 pm. The ban, based on ministerial decree 535/2015, is however often ignored by employers. Traditionally, construction workers bore the brunt of the 11 am-4 pm exposure, while street cleaners are also often outdoors after 11 am.
But a new class of workers in Kuwait is now facing one of the hottest, hardest summers yet, operating in direct sunlight during the banned hours – delivery drivers on motorcycles. The Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) does not list specific professions that are prohibited to work during the banned hours. Instead, it refers to the decree, which specifically notes that no one should work outdoors in direct sunlight during these hours.
PAM announced it will inspect various locations where work is typically performed outdoors, most often at construction sites. But what about delivery drivers on motorbikes who are on the move? They may be indoors while waiting to pick up and deliver food, but they also spend considerable time on the road in direct sunlight. When asked specifically about motorcycle delivery drivers, PAM authorities declined to answer.
Lawyer Mishari Al-Eyada confirmed that the work ban applies to motorcycle deliverymen too. “The decree states that no employee should work in outdoor areas in weather conditions that make work very difficult. Driving a motorcycle under direct sunlight is considered a violation,” he told Kuwait Times. Sanctions apply on the employer and not the employee. “If such a violation is observed by PAM, the employer will pay a KD 100 penalty. If the violation is repeated, the penalty will be doubled,” Eyada said.
Kuwait Society for Human Rights (KSHR) has already recorded 117 violations of outdoor work since the ban came into effect on June 1, including 53 violations of deliverymen on motorcycles, 27 of street cleaners and 16 of construction workers – all of them working during the banned hours in direct sunlight. The KSHR observation team visited 30 construction sites and found 21 guards living in tents not equipped with air conditioners or even fans.
KSHR is observing violations since the decree was issued in 2015, which are posted on their Twitter account. “If we find that the same violation is repeated, we will contact PAM. Unfortunately, we only have a few members so we can’t cover all areas. But photos and complaints are also sent by the public and we publish them on our social media accounts,” KSHR member Abdulrazzaq Al-Azazi told Kuwait Times.
KSHR members have also observed ice cream vendors working under the hot sun. “The ice cream vendor is considered as self-employed, so nobody is forcing him to work during the ban period. The vendors told our team that they only work in the summer, so they have to work during this time,” Azazi said.