Private Sector Labour Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (Kuwait)
 
LABOUR LAWS IN KUWAIT
 

The Labor Law in the Private sector (Law no.38/1964) regulates the work force in the private sector in Kuwait, which are enforced by the Ministry of Social affairs and Labor. The late Sheikh Jabar Al-Ahmed Al-Jabar, as he was the Hon’ble Deputy Amir of Kuwait has issued the original enactment on 1st August 1964.The presently available Law is subjected to various amendments, deletions and decrees.
Article 2 reveals that the following categories are excluded from the scope of this Law.

a. Government civil servants and employees governed by the Civil Service Law (Amiri Decree 7/1960).

b. Government workers governed by the Labor Law (Government Sector) (Law no.18/1960.)

c. Government workers contracted according to the special employment regulations for the Indians and Pakistanis.

d. Temporary and casual workers engaged for a period not exceeding six months.

e. Private servants and others of the same category.

f. Owners of minor firms which operate without mechanical machinery and normally employ less than five workers.

g. Sea workers.

The employers are prohibited from employing non-Kuwaiti workers, who are not holding a valid work permit, which shall be issued to a worker who satisfy the following conditions such as entered Kuwait legally, holding a valid Passport, possessing residence permit and of good conduct.The work permits can be cancelled by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor for the violation of any of the above conditions or in case of the continuation of the bearer’s work in Kuwait prejudices the interests of the national workers in the field of employment or the holder became unemployed for a minimum period of three months.Chapter 4 of the Law deals with the various aspects of employment contract. It may be written or verbal, particularly shows the date of appointment, remuneration, period of contract and the nature of work. It may be for a limited or unlimited period and in former case not exceed five years, but renewable upon expiry. All written contracts, correspondence, circulars, notices and regulations from the employer to his workers shall be in Arabic and a translation in one of the foreign languages may be added, but in case of dispute the Arabic version shall be prevailed.

The workers shall be undergone a probationary period not exceeding one hundred days and the employer can terminate his/her service without notice during this period, provided the worker will be eligible for the terminal indemnities.
Chapter 5 exposes the strong concern of Kuwaiti society on the prohibition of child labour. It says no “young person” of either sex below the age of fourteen shall be employed, but the persons between fourteen and eighteen years can be employed subject to certain conditions.

Chapter 6 deals with the privileges of women workers in the light of the Labor law. No women shall be employed during night except in hospitals, private clinics and other institutions which will be notified by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.

The women shall be abstained from to be employed in the dangerous industries and trades harmful to the health. Pregnant women shall be entitled for maternity leave with full pay, of 30 days preceding and 40 days following delivery. And she will be eligible for a maximum of 100 days without pay subject to the production of a medical certificate with the same effect, provided a women who enjoyed the privilege of maternity leave shall not entitled for the annual leave in the same year. Moreover a woman worker is eligible for equal remuneration to that of a man for the same work.

The “remuneration” means the basic pay with allowances, benefits, commission and periodic gratuities or bonuses usually paid to a worker. For assessing the remuneration of a monthly paying employee, the last remuneration received by him shall be considered as the basis. In case of a worker receiving his remuneration on piece rate, based on the average remuneration received for actual working days during last three months.

No worker shall be compelled to buy food or other things from a particular place or from the products of the employer and any loans given to the worker by the employer shall be interest free and no deductions can be made exceeding 10% of the remuneration. Moreover only 25% of the remuneration due to a worker can be subject to attachment or relinquishing for the purpose of alimony or settlement of food and clothing or other debts. Alimony debt has priority over other debts.

Chapter 8 divulges the provisions regarding working hours and leave. No worker shall be allowed to work more than eight hours a day or 48 hours a week. They are not supposed to be worked more than five consecutive hours without a break, not less than one hour, which is not included in the working hours. The above stipulated hours of work may be increased or decreased in certain cases, in which the Minister of Social affairs and Labour issues special order to that effect. Workers are entitled for over time payment more than 25% of their remuneration for extra hours working in week days (maximum two hours a day) and 50% for weekly off day. The Law declares nine days in a year as official holidays and they are eligible for double rate of remuneration for working on those days. The workers are eligible to get sick leave for six days with full pay, six days with three quarters, six days with half pay, six days with one quarter and six days without pay in one year, subject to the production of medical report from the medical officer proposed by the employer or a medical officer of a Government clinic. Workers, who have completed one year and five years of service, shall get fourteen and twenty one days annual leave respectively with full pay.

Chapter 9 defines the responsibility of the employer to take necessary precautions and preventive measures to protect their workers in healthy and safety manner. 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 hygienic condition. Employers must supply first aid kits containing medicines, antiseptics and bandages, and place them visibly within the 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.
 
Chapter 11 of the Law provides the provisions of expiry of contracts and terminal indemnities. An employment contract for limited period will be renewed for an indefinite period on its expiry if both parties desired to continue. Contracts with indefinite term can be cancelled by any party after notifying to other party with fifteen days prior notice in case of monthly paid workers and seven days prior notice for other workers. A monthly paid worker is entitled for fifteen days remuneration for each of the first five years and one month remuneration for each of the subsequent years of service and other workers are eligible for ten days remuneration for first five years and fifteen days for subsequent years as terminal indemnities.
A worker with more than five consecutive years of service only shall be entitled for half portion of the indemnity upon voluntary cancellation of the contract. However, a female worker is eligible for full indemnity, if she ceases work within six months from the date of her marriage. The employer has the right to dismiss the workers without notice or indemnity in the following cases:

a, If the worker commits an offence causing gross loss to the employer.

b, Persistent disregard by the worker of the instructions of the employer.

c, Absence of the worker for seven consecutive days without reasonable cause.

d, In case of conviction of a crime, in which honor, honesty or morality are involved.

e, If the worker commits an act contrary to morals on the work site.

f, In case of an assault by a worker upon his fellow workers.

g, If the worker neglects or fails to meet the contractual or legal obligations.

h, If it is established that the worker obtained the employment by false representation.

i, If the worker reveals the secrets of the establishment he works for.

A worker shall be entitled to cease the work before the expiry of contract without prior notice and eligible for terminal indemnity if the employer fails to fulfill his contractual or legal obligations, if the employer or any of his agents assaults the worker and if the continuation of his work will adversely affect the worker’s safety and 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 in the case of dissolution of the establishment or liquidation or closing or bankruptcy or merges with another or transfers by inheritance, will, donation, sale, assignment or any other legal action the worker’s will be entitled for terminal indemnity and shall be the liability of the successor. The workers, however, may continue in the service of the new employer with their indemnities respecting the previous service being reserved for them.

Chapter 12 deals with the compensation for industrial accidents and diseases. If an employee is injured at work, the employer shall 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 disabled.

An employee is entitled for 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 contravening 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.
Chapter 13 lays down the provisions controlling the formation and activities of trade unions. The formation and functions of the trade unions are strictly controlled. Only one union may be established for workers of any firm or profession and no person may join more than one union. To join a union, a person must be at least 18 years of age and have a certificate of good conduct from a competent authority. An expatriate must in addition to fulfill the above two conditions have a valid work permit and 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 only. Expatriate members only have the right to delegate one of themselves as their representative to express their views before the executive board.

If a dispute arises between an employer and all or some of his employees regarding terms of work, the following procedures are mandatory:

• Direct negotiation must take place between the employer and the employees. If an amicable settlement is reached, it must be registered with the MSA&L within seven days.

• If no settlement is reached then the parties should request the MSA&L to intervene.

• 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.

Chapter 15 defines the specific procedures, which shall be followed by individual/group pursing claims against their employers. The time limit for filing cases under this Law is one year from the date of termination of employment. Labor cases shall be exempted 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.
Before filing a suit the worker shall submit an application to the MSA&L and upon the receipt of such an application the ministry shall call the two parties to try for an amicable settlement. If they fail to settle the issue amicably, MSA&L shall refer the dispute to the Court of First Instance within two weeks of the submission of application by the worker, shall be accompanied by a memorandum containing a summary of the dispute, pleas of both parties and the Ministry’s comments. The Court upon the receipt of the reference, fix a date for hearing within three days and notify the parties. The Court shall take hasty steps to try such cases in summary manner.

Without prejudice to any penalty imposed by any other laws or delivered in judgment of courts, any person violates the provisions of this law shall be liable to be punished as follows:
a, The offender shall be served with a notice to rectify the offence within a stipulated time fixed by the Ministry.

b, The offender shall be punished with a fine of three Kuwaiti Dinars for each worker concerned, if the offence is not rectified within the stipulated time.

c, If the offence is not rectified even after the imposition of the above fine, the offender shall be punished with a fine of Five Kuwaiti Dinars for each worker concerned.

This Law supersedes all the previous enactments and decrees (Labor Law (Private sector) of 1959, Amiri decree No.43/1960 and Law No.1/1961) and subject to revisions.

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