I write this to the beautiful souls in Kuwait that make our country a better place to live in. As I have mentioned in my columns and articles multiple times, there are many legal concerns by non-nationals in Kuwait regarding their employment. Kuwait has gone a long way in making this country a better place, but there is still a lot that we need to work on for us to be a more welcoming country to people from all walks of life. I have said this on multiple occasions – it is a blessing that we have so many different nationalities in Kuwait. Here are some major concerns from non-nationals living and working in Kuwait.
Leaving on notice period
Question: As per my contract, I have a three-month notice that I have to serve my boss. However, two different HR professionals have informed me that my boss has the right to tell me that my services are not needed and can ask me to stop coming without any notice and stop paying me thereafter. I was wondering if this is correct.
Fajer: Even though your boss has the right to tell you not to attend work during your three-month notice period before resignation, they do not have the right to withhold your three months’ salary. Your employer and you should both decide amicably what is best for both parties. Should there be a disagreement or should they decide to withhold your salary for the three months, I suggest you resign at the Shuoon (Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor).
Debit cards/illegal sponsorship
Question: I am a US contractor and my salary is $10,000 that is transferred to my American bank account. Yet my company keeps getting me to sign a yearly contract with my sponsor/kafeel, and that document has a salary of KD 1,200. I later found that they even opened a bank account under my name and they have been placing KD 1,200 in my account on a monthly basis and withdrawing it! Isn’t this illegal?
Fajer: 1. Debit cards: You will be surprised to know how many employees come to me without knowing that they have bank accounts in Kuwait. Violating employers have a common practice of getting the employees to sign documents or to give them the authority to open bank accounts on their behalf. These documents are usually in Arabic, and the employees have no idea that they have an active bank account in Kuwait. Their salary as mentioned in their contract at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor could be less or more than what they are receiving by their employers – their actual salary. Some companies keep the debit cards with them – this constitutes as a crime by the employer, depending on the action involved. Please check and be careful. To answer the question, yes this is illegal and you can file both criminal charges as well as civil cases against your employer asking for compensation.
2. The other illegal issue here is that you are working under two contracts – one registered just for sponsorship purposes, while the other is your actual contract. This is also a very common practice in Kuwait and unfortunately makes it very hard for us lawyers. The system keeps changing, so please be very careful and ask for things to be clear from the beginning.
Question: I filed a complaint against my sponsor at Shuoon, but he filed a case against me claiming that I absconded from work, when I didn’t – I actually resigned. He wouldn’t give me my passport back, which he was holding illegally, so I filed a case at Shuoon. To my surprise, he filed an absconding case against me. What can I do or what should I have done to avoid such a thing in the future? What is the punishment for absconding?
Fajer: Absconding cases are now becoming stricter in Kuwait towards the employee, and this unfortunately is being abused by violating employers who have other issues against their employees. They do not want to pay termination indemnity, so they might accuse their employees of absconding. How can you avoid this? 1) Always have your termination/resignation in writing. 2) If you do not want to go to work because your employer is violating your rights, and it is not safe for you to stay there, then file a complaint first. Your employer will not be able to accuse you of absconding if you have filed a case first. The punishment for absconding in Kuwait is deportation. It is not looked into by a judge, so you will be deported unfortunately.
If you have any legal questions, please email Ask@FajerTheLawyer.com
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed