I have been receiving questions on what seems to be a proposed new law going around social media, and people do not seem to understand whether the law has been promulgated, i.e. is it in effect. The proposed law simply states all holidays in Kuwait are no longer public holidays except for Eid Al-Fitr, Eid Al-Adha, National and Liberation Days, and a new holiday to be introduced, which is the last 10 days of Ramadan to give people the chance to fast, stay up nights praying and devote their day to worship. In other words, no more New Year holiday celebrations! There seems to be quite some lobbying for this new law and it is receiving great attention from the public.
I understand that Kuwait is a Muslim country, but Kuwaitis being Muslim does not mean not allowing others to practice their faiths or their celebrations. Kuwait is a diverse and multi-faith society and we should be making it easier for other people to live in Kuwait, not more difficult. Many Christians celebrate the Gregorian New Year, but also many Kuwaitis celebrate the new year! In fact, I think that Christians in a utopian Kuwait should be able to get Christmas and Christmas Eve off.
The new purposed law in Kuwait is for the public sector only and is yet to be promulgated. Should I have more information, I will inform you. I honestly hope that Kuwait becomes the best version of itself, allowing all faiths while still keeping its identity as a Muslim country. As for today’s column, I have decided to answer questions generally from readers regarding off days.
Question: I manage a small company of around 15 employees and the employees do not work 48 hours a week, because we have not been asking them to come to work on Saturday. They are also not working eight hours on weekdays – they work seven hours a day. Can I now make them work on Fridays to make up for the missing hours? There is no mention of their weekly work hours in their contracts.
Fajer: Fridays by law are an off day, so no – you cannot make them work on a Friday, unless it is overtime and with their consent. It is also very common in Kuwait for employees to work less than 48 hours a week with Saturday being off. Forty-eight hours are the maximum, so if you do not really need your employees 48 hours a week, then it is okay for them to be working 40 hours or less – this depends on your work culture. Also, something to make clear about the Kuwaiti labor law – you do not have to stick to the laws if it is to the benefit of the employees. So if your employees are used to working 35 hours a week, it is very difficult to convince them to start working 48 hours!
Question: Is it true that now we can take 45 days off instead of 30 days annually?
Fajer: Article 70 before the amendments used to state: “The worker shall be entitled to a 30-day paid annual leave. However, the worker shall not be entitled to a leave for the first year of work except after at least nine months of service for the employer. Official holidays and sick leaves during the year shall not be counted as annual leave. The worker shall be entitled to leave for the fractions of a year in proportion with the period he spent in actual service, even the first year of service.”
It now states (rough translation as there is no official English version yet): “The worker shall be entitled to a 30-day paid annual leave. However, the worker shall be entitled to a leave after six months of service for the employer. Weekends, official holidays and sick leaves during the year shall not be counted as annual leave. The worker shall be entitled to leave for fractions of the year in proportion with the period he spent in actual service, even the first year of service.” Some people have done the calculation that with weekends, you will be able to take 45 days off in total.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed