There are three main legal codes governing labour
conditions in Kuwait. The employment conditions of civil servants
are regulated by the Labour Law for Government Employees.
Those who work in the oil industry are protected by the Labour
Law of the Oil Sector. And the Labour Law of the Private Sector
governs employment conditions in private businesses. Persons
in domestic service, such as maids and chauffeurs, however
are not covered by any particular code and must rely for protection
on general principles of law.
SECTOR LABOUR LAW
Labour regulations in the private sector are
enforced by the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour (MSA&L).
The points discussed below are neither complete nor authoritative.
As well as domestic servants, persons on temporary contracts
of less than six months are excluded from the scope of the
private sector labour law. Where an employer's head office
is outside Kuwait, the labour law of the country where the
employer has its head office, governs expatriates working
in Kuwait, unless the employer has a branch in Kuwait which
concluded the contract with the employee in which case Kuwaiti
Contract of Employment
An employee's terms of service are contained in his employment
contract, which may be for a fixed time or it may be indefinite.
A fixed time may not exceed five years.
The labour law specifies minimum limits below which terms
of service may not fall, and if a clause in his contract gives
an employee a lesser benefit than his right under the law,
he is entitled to the minimum specified by law for that particular
An employment contract may be verbal or in writing.
In either case, it must show at least (a) the remuneration
payable, (b) a description of the nature of the job, (c) the
date of appointment, and (d) its duration (if fixed). Where
a contract is verbal then, in the event of a dispute, either
side can use circumsta-ntial evidence to prove what is in
If the contract is in writing, it must be in Arabic. A translation
into another language may be attached but the Arabic version
An employee may be hired on probation for a 100
days at most. During this time he may be terminated without
notice, though accrued indemnity but not holiday pay must
be paid. An employee may not be put on probation more than
once by the same employer.
Remuneration & Deductions
Remuneration includes basic pay, incentives, commissions,
obligatory bonuses, gratuities from third parties and allowances
from which the employee benefits (such as housing allowance),
but excludes allowances on account of expenses and profit
shares. Payment of a bonus is obligatory if it is stipulated
in the contract of employment or in the by-laws of the firm
or it has been paid in the same amount regularly every year.
An employee's total remuneration must be used
when calculating terminal indemnity or compensation on account
of injury. Where an employee is paid on a time basis the last
salary payable is used, but if he is paid on a piece-work
basis then the average wage paid to him for his actual work
during the previous three months is used.
There is no minimum wage. Salaried employees
must be paid at least once a month. Piece-workers and those
on hourly or weekly wages must be paid every two weeks.
Persons working for a subcontractor, who has
failed to pay their salaries, may demand payment from their
employer's superior contractor to the extent that the latter
owes their employer money for work done. When an employer
goes bankrupt, the outstanding salaries and termination benefits
of his employees must be paid before his other creditors.
An employee may not be obliged to buy products
made by his employer. If he owes his employer money then not
more than 10% of his salary may be deducted to pay off his
debt and he may not be charged interest. Where an employee's
salary is attached on account of debts to third parties, the
deduction is limited to 25% of his salary.
The working hours of an adult are limited to 8 hours a day
and 48 hours a week. A rest break of at least one hour must
be allowed after 5 consecutive hours of work. Rest periods
are not included in the calculation of working hours. These
standard hours may be increased or decreased by the MSA&L
in certain cases, such as hotel workers.
An employee is entitled to one full day off without pay a
week. The traditional day off is Friday, but this is not a
legal requirement in Kuwait.
An employee has a right to eight public holidays
a year with full pay as follows: one day on Hijri New Year's
Day, one day on Ascension Day, two days each for Eid Al-Fitr
and Eid Al-Adha, one day for the Prophet Mohamed's Birthday,
and one day for National Day. Liberation Day is not yet a
statutory holiday in the private sector.
An employee is entitled to 14 days leave a year
on full pay, provided he has completed one year of service,
and 21 days after more than 5 years of continuous service.
Official holidays and days of sick leave may not be counted
as part of annual leave. The employer has the right to fix
the date of leave. An employee must be given his holiday pay
before he goes on leave and the last salary payable before
the holidays must be used to calculate the amount due. If
an employee's services are terminated then he is entitled
to a cash payment in lieu of accumulated leave, irrespective
of the number of years of leave due, and payment for the accumulated
leave must be calculated on the basis of the last salary payable
on the date of termination.
Subject to a satisfactory medical report, an employee is entitled
to sick leave for (a) the first six days of illness on full
pay, (b) the next six days on 3/4 Pay, (c) the next six days
on 1/2 Pay, (d) the next six days on 1/4 Pay, and (e) the
next six days without Pay. This entitlement is the total entitlement
in one year and not per period of sickness.
An employee may be required to work overtime provided it is
necessary and the employer's order is in writing. Overtime
rates are (a) 1.25 times the basic hourly rate for excess
hours worked on ordinary days, (b) 1.50 times the basic hourly
rate for all hours worked on the weekly day off, and (c) twice
the basic hourly rate for all hours worked on public holidays.
Overtime may only be worked on 90 days in a year
and is limited to 2 hours a day, 6 hours a week, and 180 hours
a year. An employee has the right to refuse to work overtime.
A woman performing the same work as a man must be paid equal
remuneration. The standard working hours for women are the
same as for men.
But women may not work at night (7pm to 6am)
except in clinics, pharmacies, hotels, nursery schools, homes
for the handicapped, airline and tourist offices, theatres
and Entertainm-ent City. They may work up to midnight in cooperative
societies and public utilities, restaurants, beauty salons,
tailoring shops, banks and offices. Night time working hours
may be extended by the MSA&L during Ramadan, and on Eids
and public holidays. Employers are obliged to arrange transport
for women working at night.
A woman is entitled to maternity leave to a maximum of 30
days prior to delivery and 40 days after delivery on full
pay. Thereafter she may be absent from work without pay for
up to 100 consecutive or non-consecutive days, provided she
presents a medical certificate stating that she is ill as
a result of gestation and parturition. The annual leave entitlements
of a woman who makes use of her maternity leave privileges
in any year are forfeit on a day-per-day basis until her annual
leave entitlement for that year is extinguished.
When the employment is terminated, an employee is entitled
to a lump sum payment called termination indemnity.
For those paid monthly, termination indemnity
is 15 days remuneration for each complete year of service
for the first 5 years and 30 days for each complete year beyond
5 years, but the total indemnity is limited to one and a half
year's remuneration. For piece-rate workers and those paid
on an hourly, daily or weekly basis, the indemnity is 10 days
remuneration for each complete year of service for the first
5 years, and 15 days pay for each complete year beyond 5 years,
subject to a limit of one year's remuneration. In both cases
part years are calculated pro-rata.
Pay per day is calculated by dividing the monthly
salary in the final year of employment by 26. The monthly
salary used to calculate daily pay must include the elements
mentioned under 'remuneration' above.
An employee who resigns with less than five years
service is not entitled to indemnity. One who resigns with
five years or more of service is entitled to 50% indemnity.
But employees who are made redundant (irrespective of length
of service), who reach retirement age, who are disabled at
work, or who die are entitled to full indemnity. And a woman
who marries while she is an employee and who resigns within
six months of marriage is entitled to full indemnity.
Disciplinary Notices & Penalties
All employee related regulations must be issued as circulars
or bulletins written in Arabic.
Miscreant employees may be penalised provided
the employer issues regulations specifying the acts that are
punishable. Penalties must be progressive and are limited
w only one punishment may be inflicted for each act of misbehaviour.
w a penalty cannot be imposed for an act committed outside the
work place unless it was related to work.
w a pay deduction cannot exceed 5 days pay a month.
w a suspension from duty cannot exceed 10 days a month.
w a penalty cannot be imposed for any act once 15 days have
elapsed since the act was proved or since the usual date for
the payment of wages.
Where an employment contract is for a fixed period, it terminates
automa-tically at the end of the period, but if both parties
then continue to implement it, it is deemed to be renewed
indefinitely under the same terms and conditions. If either
party terminates the contract before the end of the fixed
period (and there is no clause in the contract to cover this)
then the party terminating the contract must compensate the
other. Where termination is made by the employer, compensation
is limited to the wage the employee would have earned from
the day of termination to the expiry of his contract. Where
it is the employee who quits, compensation is limited to the
employer's actual loss.
Where an employment contract is for an unlimited
period, either party may terminate it by notifying the other
in writing at least 15 days prior to termination (where the
employee is paid monthly) or 7 days before termination (where
the employee is paid more frequently). Either party may pay
the other 15 or 7 days salary, as appropriate, in lieu of
An employer has the right to terminate an employee
without notice, and without paying indemnity and compensation,
if the employee:
w commits a wrongful act resulting in serious loss to the employer,
w repeatedly disobeys the instructions of the employer,
w disobeys the employer's instructions concerning safety at
work on a single occasion,
w has been absent from work for more than seven consecutive
days without due cause,
w has been convicted of a crime affe- cting honour, honesty
w commits an act against public morality in the work place,
w assaults a fellow employee, the employer or his agent at work
or on account of work,
w fails to carry out his obligations under the terms of his
contract or the labour law,
w has used fraud to obtain work, or
w reveals any secrets relating to his employment.
An employee has the right to quit without notice before the
expiry of his contract, and to collect his indemnity and not
pay compensation, if:
w his employer fails to abide by the provisions of his contract
or the labour law,
w the employee has been assaulted by the employer or his agent,
w to continue in work would endanger his health.
An employee's contract is terminated if he dies. It may be
terminated if he fails (without fault) to perform his work
or he exhausts his entitlement to sick leave. In all these
cases his indemnity must be paid.
An employee's contract is automatically terminated
if his firm goes into liquidation or merges with another,
or there is a lockout, or the firm is sold or inherited, and
in all cases the employee is entitled to his termination indemnity.
Where the firm is sold or inherited, the new owner must settle
the indemnity, though the employee may continue in service
with the new owner while reserving his right to indemnity
for his previous service.
Health & Safety
Employers are obliged to take precautions to protect their
employees against physical hazards and occupational diseases
at work. They are also required to ensure that places of work
are clean, well ventilated, adequately lit and in sanitary
condition. Employers must supply first aid kits containing
medicines, antiseptics and bandages, and place them visibly
within reach of employees. Detailed standards in these matters
are contained in resolutions issued by the MSA&L in consultation
with the Ministry of Public Health.
Employees who work in areas not serviced by public
transport must be provided with suitable transport. If they
work in localities far from populated areas, the employer
must provide suitable accommodation, potable water and the
means to obtain supplies.
If an employee is injured at work, the employer must report
the matter to the local police station and the MSA&L.
The injured employee has the right to treatment, at the employer's
expense, in any government hospital or private clinic as the
employer deems suitable. A doctor's report, stating the period
of treatment required, any disability arising from the accident
and the employee's fitness to continue in work, must be obtained.
During treatment, an injured employee is entitled
to full pay for the first six months and, thereafter, half
pay until he dies, or recovers, or is proved to be permanently
An employee has the right to compensation for work-related
injuries without having to prove that the employer was at
fault, provided he did not injure himself intentionally or
was not guilty of gross malpractice (such as expressly contra-vening
safety regulations). But where his injuries have made him
more than 25% disabled or he has died of them, he (or his
family) will be entitled to compensation even if he was guilty
of gross malpractice.
Compensation varies with the severity of the
injury. Where death has occurred, it is the greater of (a)
1500 days pay or (b) the legal blood money (currently KD10,000).
For total permanent disab-ility, it is the greater of (a)
2000 days pay or (b) one and one-third times the legal blood
money. For partial permane-nt disability, compensation is
calculated as a percentage of what would be due for total
UNIONS & DISPUTE RESOLUTION
The formation and activities of trades unions
are strictly controlled. Only one union may be established
for workers of any firm or profession and a person may not
join more than one union. To join a union, a person must:
(a) be at least
18 years of age and
(b) have a certificate of good conduct from a competent authority.
An expatriate must also
(c) have a valid work permit and
(d) have been in Kuwait for 5 consecutive years.
The right to vote in the
general assembly of a union or to be elected to its executive
board is restricted to Kuwaitis. Expatriate members only have
the right to delegate one of themselves as their representative
to express their views before the executive board.
Collective Labour Disputes
If a dispute arises between an employer and all or some of
his employees regarding terms of work, the following procedures
w Direct nego-tiation must take place between the empl-oyer
and the employees. If an agreement is reached, it must be
registered with the MSA&L within seven days.
w If no agreement is reached then the parties should request
the MSA&L to intervene.
w If the MSA&L fails to settle the dispute within 15 days,
it must refer the matter to the Labour Disputes Arbitration
Committee in the courts. The employer (or his representatives)
and representatives of the employees may appear before this
committee to a limit of three representatives each. The committee's
decision is final and binding.
Individual Labour Disputes
The private sector labour law also lays down specific procedures
which must be followed by individuals pursuing claims against
The dispute must be submitted to the MSA&L before a law
suit is started. The Ministry must call the two parties together
and try to settle the matter amicably. If no settlement is
reached then, within two weeks of being asked by the employee,
the MSA&L must refer the dispute to the Labour Court,
along with a summary of the matter, the evidence of the parties,
and the Ministry's own comments. Within three days the court
must fix a date for a hearing, and notify both parties. The
case is heard in a summary manner.
The time limit for filing cases is one year after
employment is terminated. Labour cases are exempt from the
usual court fees but if the employee loses then the court
may order him to pay a nominal amount on account of costs.
& CIVIL RIGHTS
Expatriates who are finding it difficult to get
their legal rights in a work-related or other dispute may
find the following organisations helpful:
Labour Departments at the Ministry of Social Affairs &
The MSA&L has five Labour Departments, one in each governorate.
Labour disputes should be referred to one of these departments,
along with documents to substantiate a claim. The Department
will give advice on the merits of a case.
Kuwait Trade Union Federation
The federation has a special interest in preventing the abuse
of expatriate labourers. It provides legal advice to labourers
free of charge and also helps them to take action against
Human Rights Committee (HRC) at the National Assembly
Complaints on any matter, whether related to employment or
other issues, can be sent to the HRC by letter or by fax,
or can be discussed on the telephone or by visiting the National
Assembly building in person. Persons who are refused entry
to the National Assembly building should call the Committee
directly. The HRC are particularly interested in expatriates
who are having difficulty in obtaining their passports from
their employers, and such persons are asked to fax a signed
letter in Arabic stating the facts of their case, their civil
ID and passport numbers, country of origin, and the name of
their employer to the Committee who will treat the matter
in strict confidence.
Trade Union Federation
HRC at the National Assembly
Regulations under the private sector labour law
are issued at irregular intervals. They only become effective
when published in Al-Kuwait Al-Youm, the official gazette.
In July 2001 the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour has
submitted final amendments to the new labour draft law, in
line with international labour agreements signed by Kuwait,
to the Council of Ministers for ratification. The new draft
law incorporates several amendments to the bill for expatriates
in the private sector including additional annual and sick
leave benefits and less working hours during the holy month
Important feature in the new draft law compels
employers to pay workers salary before the seventh of each
month and obliges sponsors to provide insurance for workers
in the industrial sector. According to the new bill, public
holidays have been increased to 12 days instead of the current
8, sick annual leave from 30 to 90 days (paid and unpaid),
and the annual leave to 21 days instead of the current 14
days which will increase to 30 days after five years of service
compared to present 21 days. The draft law may allow expats
to setup labour unions on an equal basis with their Kuwaiti
The labour draft stipulates to increase maternity
leave from 40 to 45 days, raise the termination notice from
15 to 30 days and bars employers from terminating the contracts
of their employees while on leave.