My heart goes out to everyone right now that has to deal with consequences because of COVID-19. It is truly a hard time for everyone. I just hope we all come out of this as a stronger society and really learn from this situation. Many people in Kuwait are receiving salary cuts; the majority of whom, mostly from my experience, are non-Kuwaitis. Reducing an employee’s salary under the Kuwaiti Labor Law has always been illegal, but unfortunately, companies that wanted to provide cuts have always found creative ways to do so.
Since expats are brought into Kuwait on visas and sponsors, being sponsored by Kuwaitis or Kuwaiti companies to come into Kuwait, then shouldn’t those sponsors be responsible for the employees’ wellbeing while they are in Kuwait? This is really a time for us to reconsider our system and what works best for the wellbeing of not only the individuals, but the society as a whole. Here are some of the most common questions and my answers on salary cuts.
No work, no pay
Question: I am in a lockdown area and I cannot get to work. My employer is saying if there is no work, then there is no pay. Is this legal?
Fajer: If you cannot get to work because you are in a lockdown area and then you cannot fulfill your work obligations under your employment agreement because of force majeure, an unprecedented and unpredicted event, that is out of your control. Also, if you are staying in an accommodation provided by your employer, then your employer should really be more understanding.
Question: What can I do if I am getting a salary reduction?
Fajer: Right now if it is affecting your life in an essential way, as in you cannot pay rent or groceries, I highly recommend you do not wait to resolve this from a legal point of view, but to ask for assistance from charities. In the future though, you can file a case with the manpower authority. The government is working on setting up many governmental services online, and I truly hope that they reconsider how they are dealing with employment issues and disputes, and use technology to advance their services, making them more efficient and quicker, as these services can be essential for many expats in the country.
I would also suggest you document this, by emailing your employer and saying you are getting a salary reduction. If you do not have an email, you can try texting this to your employer. Also, definitely do not agree to go to the bank and take an amount out of your account and give it to your employer, or give the employer a credit card.
Just to make it clear, it is illegal and has always been illegal for employers to reduce salaries. With that said, we know this is a hard time for many businesses also. If you do agree, and only if you do agree as an employee, then they can reduce your salary with your permission. If you have any questions or if you are dealing with something similar, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as we are now working at the law firm with many volunteers and can try to help.