The Kuwaiti economy, much like the case in the rest of the world, is currently going through a shift for many different reasons that I will not get into as it is not part of my specialty. But for once, the government is trying to move away from focusing its revenues solely on oil production, and instead started supporting local businesses, in addition to other factors that are causing this shift. As a result, some companies and corporations are finding financial difficulties this year, causing many to file for bankruptcy or show signs of troubled balance sheets including delayed salaries.
In Kuwait, we have a larger number of expat workers, and therefore I would like to discuss what this means for them, as I have been seeing many clients at the firm lately with issues regarding their companies’ bankruptcy. Can expats leave Kuwait if they are not receiving any salaries? As well as other questions and advices I would like to provide.
As I have said before, I will be answering questions in simple terms that are understandable to all, and this means that I will not be using correct legal words, but instead words that are easy for everyone to understand.
QUESTION: Do I still receive my benefits even though the company is being liquidated?
FAJER: Yes. When a company is liquidated by law, employment rights are the first debt to be settled.
QUESTION: I have not been paid for a few months. I hope things turn around, but I am worried they would not. What should I do?
FAJER: Initially, it is important to have this documented, if you are or were being paid by bank, then you would already have this documented. If you are getting paid by cash or worse, if your company has a bank account in your name that you do not have access to, then please do have this documented.
You will need to go to shoon (the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) and file a complaint. Filing a complaint for not being paid is separate than canceling your visa or resigning, and the two do not have to be done together. I have written other articles recently with more details about the specifics of filing a complaint. Please refer to them for further information.
QUESTION: Since I am an expat in Kuwait and I have not been receiving my salary, can I leave Kuwait? Do I have to cancel my residency? Do you suggest I resign? What advice do you have?
FAJER: Yes you can but there is a process that you have to follow, especially if you want your monetary benefits and other rights and if you would like to come back and work in Kuwait. I highly suggest that you cancel your visa, because the last thing you want is for an absconding case to be filed against you while you are out of Kuwait, making it hard for you to defend yourself or find a lawyer that will defend you.
You will need to file for visa cancellation at shoon and you will need a valid reason, such as your contract ending or a termination/resignation letter that is clear and signed or stamped by the parties. I also highly suggest that you give a POA (power of attorney) to a lawyer that you trust before leaving the country so should anything arise you have someone to defend you. I hope the above helps. I know this is a difficult situation to be in so please weigh in your options.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed