Workers all around the world have different work cultures and capabilities. Some of us work better under stress, but some of us are more productive when things are planned. Some workers need breaks while others can work non-stop. And although more and more successful international companies are leaning towards giving employees the freedom of choosing their culture, most governments around the world feel the need to write clear guidelines that define employee rights in order to create a general work culture within the country, focusing on hours and time off for employees.

I know I have written comprehensively on employee rights, but this will be my first time talking in detail about vacations and days off. It is important for us to rest as human beings, because excessive work can negatively affect our health physically and mentally.

Annual leave
Question: I have been working for a company in Kuwait for one year and six months now, and I have never taken a day off. I have now requested for my 30-day annual leave, and at first they did not agree. Do they have the right not to agree? Also, now that they have agreed, they are asking me for a one month salary deposit to make sure I come back. Is this legal?

Fajer: According to the Kuwait labor law, you deserve a 30-day paid annual leave per year. Your company may not permit you to leave at a certain time, but they are not allowed to stop you from taking your annual leave. As for you having to pay a deposit in the amount of your salary in order for you to take your annual leave, this is illegal – in every sense. They cannot ask you for money in order for you to take your annual paid leave!

In fact, article 71 of Kuwait labor law clearly states that your company needs to pay you your paid leave before you take the leave. So if you are leaving for one month, they should pay you one month’s salary in advance.

Days off
Question: My contract does not state how many days off I have, so how do I know how many days off I deserve? Does it matter how many years I have been working in the company?

Fajer: If your contract does not state how many days off, I suggest you double check your company’s regulations and policies. Most big companies in Kuwait have regulations and policies that touch on matters such as annual leaves. If your company does not have regulations and policies, then please note that your days off are as per Kuwait labor law, which is 30 paid days per year.

Question: I have been working for a company for six years and although my benefits and salary have changed over the years, I have not signed anything except my initial contract when I first came to Kuwait six years ago. I checked the policies and regulations of the company and it says that employees that have been working for five years and more are entitled to 40 days off, but my contract states 30 days off. Which one is legally binding?

Fajer: In the labor law, when there is conflict between two sources that grant an employee his or her rights, then the source that gives more appealing benefits to the employee are the ones that are legally applicable. Therefore, since the policies and regulations of the company state that the employee has 40 days, the policies and regulations shall be applicable.
To make things clearer, if it was the other way around, the contract would be applicable. Let us say the policies and regulations of the company stated that all employees have a 30-day annual leave but your contract stated 40, then your contract is applicable and not the policies and regulations.

Days in balance
Question: I have 60 days off in balance, and I have no intention in taking the days off anytime soon. My company says I need to take days off, because I cannot accumulate more than two years of leave. Is this true?

Fajer: Yes, it is true as stated in article 72 of Kuwait labor law: “The worker shall have the right to accumulate his leave entitlements provided that they do not exceed two years and he shall be entitled to take his accumulated leave all at once subject to the approval of the employer.”

Question: Do I have the right to ask for compensation for my leave days instead of taking a holiday?

Fajer: Yes, you can do so if you agree to the above, as your employee cannot force you to take compensation instead of leave. With that said, this is usually done at the end of an employee’s contract. In other words, if an employee’s contract ends, but he has a leave balance, he should be receiving compensation for his days.

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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed