Labor Laws Concerning Migrant Workers in Kuwait
The following document is in reference to Kuwait’s Labor Law that governs workers in the private sectors. If you work in a private company, you are entitled to receive the rights guaranteed by the labor Law.
There are exceptions. If you are a domestic worker (working in a private house as a maid or gardener), a farm worker, an agricultural worker, a casual worker, an employee of a government department or a member of the armed forces, police or security force, you do not fall under the protection of the labor Law. This means in terms of work, you are only protected by what is mentioned in the contract with the employer, which is enforceable through a civil court. There are certain legal mandates for domestic workers, listed in Section II.
Section I: Labor Laws for Private Sector Workers
1. Should I be charged recruitment fees?
It is not explicitly prohibited to charge workers recruitment fees. Your employer cannot make deductions from your wages except in the following cases:
If you have taken an advance (deduction at any one time should not be more than 10% of your salary and must be interest free)
f the employer has imposed a penalty for not following the rules and regulations of the workplace after you begin working.
Your employer cannot make any other deductions from your salary, including for medical insurance fees, insurance premiums, work permit costs, etc.
2. Can my employer confiscate my passport?
No. Employers are prohibited from confiscating their employees’ passports.
3. What should the contract include?
A written employment contract is signed between the employer and worker before a job is accepted in Kuwait. However, a contract may also be verbal. In either case, it must clearly give the description of the job, wages payable, date of appointment and the length of service.
In case of dispute involving a verbal contract, either side can use circumstantial evidence. Written contracts must be drafted in Arabic and must be issued in 3 copies. A contract translated into another language may be attached. In the case of resolving disputes, the Arabic version will be considered in a court of law.
4. What permits do I need to obtain before I can start working?
After you arrive in Kuwait, you must undergo a medical examination. If you are declared unfit, you will be sent back to your home country.
Your employer must procure medical insurance for you, valid for the duration of your contract, and provide you with a health card (for use in accessing medical services).
Your employer must provide you with a residence permit upon your arrival in Kuwait. You can enter the country with an entry visa, but your employer must obtain the residence permit after you arrive.
You can live and work in Kuwait only with a residence permit. You cannot work with other visas, such as a family or dependent visa. You can only be granted a residence permit after your employer has obtained medical insurance for you. After receiving your residence permit, your employer must obtain an identity card (civil ID card) for you. The residence permit and ID card are evidence of your legal status in Kuwait.
5. Are migrant workers entitled to a minimum wage?
Yes. Workers are entitled to Kuwaiti dinars KWD 75 (US$250) per month.
6. What are the legal working hours in Kuwait?
Eight hours a day and 48 hours per week is the required working hours for an adult worker. An employee must be permitted to have a one-hour rest or break every after five consecutive hours of work. This one-hour rest or break is not included in the computation of working hours.
During the month of Ramadan, the working hours are reduced to 36 hours a week.
Working outdoors is prohibited between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. during summer, from June until end of August, except for oil and gas workers
Workers may enjoy one rest day per week. However, employers may require workers to work on their day off. If this occurs, a worker is entitled to at least 150 percent of the daily rate of the basic wage, or any other compensation agreement that is beneficial to the worker.
7. Am I entitled to a sick leave?
Employees are entitled to the following annual sick leave:
First fifteen days on full pay
Additional ten days on 75% pay
Additional ten days on 50% pay
Additional ten days on 25% pay
Additional thirty days without pay
Workers requesting sick leave must provide a medical report from the doctor appointed by the employer, or the doctor of the government medical center. In the event of conflict regarding the necessity of a sick leave or its duration, the report of the government doctor shall be adopted.
8. Am I entitled to an overtime wage?
An employer may require his employees to render work overtime provided that it is needed, and it has a written agreement or order
125% for excess hours worked on regular working days
150% for all hours worked on the weekly day off
Twice the basic hourly rate for all hours worked on public holidays
Overtime is only limited to 2 hours a day, 6 hours per week and 180 hours a year and should not exceed 90 days in a year. Every employee has the right to refuse to render overtime work.
9. How often should I be paid my wages?
Wages must be paid on a fortnightly or monthly basis through the Wage Protection System to the worker’s accredited bank.
10. Am I entitled to an annual paid leave?
You have the right to paid for an annual leave of 30 days per year. In the first year, you are entitled to the leave only after at least nine months of employment. You have the right to be paid for any unused leave days and accumulate them, as long as the accumulated duration does not exceed two years.
There are eight holidays a year where an employee is entitled to enjoy with full payment. These holidays are as follows:
One day on Hijri New Year’s Day
One day on Ascension Day
Two days for Eid Al-Fitr
Two days for Eid Al-Adha
One day for the prophet Mohammed Birthday (PBUH)
One day for National Day
11. Am I entitled to an end of service gratuity?
For workers paid on an hourly, daily, weekly or on a piecemeal basis, end of service gratuity is equal to ten days of wages for each year of service during the first five years of service and 15 days of wages for any remaining years of service. The total amount cannot exceed one year’s wages overall.
For workers paid on a monthly basis, end of service gratuity is equal to 15 days of wages for each year of service in the first five years of service, and one month of wages for any remaining years of service. The total amount cannot exceed 18 months’ wages overall.
12. Can I join a trade union?
All workers may join existing trade unions, but foreign nationals must hold a valid work permit and Kuwait work experience of more than five years is a requisite to become a union member. An employee is not allowed to join more than one union. Only Kuwaiti nationals can vote in the union’s general assembly.
13. What is the procedure to lodge a complaint against my employer?
Workers must lodge a dispute at a local Public Authority of Manpower office (six offices across the country - find details here). A PAM investigator tries to mediate an outcome. If no settlement is reached within a month, the PAM investigator refers the case to the Civil Court (Labour Circuit). Cases can be brought to the Civil Court (Labour Circuit). All cases are free of court fees.
You can find an English guide for filing complaints here.
You can find the e-services offered by the PAM here.
14. Can I change employers without permission?
If workers want to change jobs with permission of employer, the following guidelines apply:
For private sector employees who work on government-contracted projects: such workers are permitted to transfer only to other government-contracted projects implemented by the same sponsor and only after the end of their contract. Workers with certain technical skills are permitted to transfer to other government-contracts’ projects run by another sponsor if the implementing government entity approves the transfer. Workers in Free Trade Zones and the manufacturing, agricultural, co-operatives and fishing sectors: Transfer is permitted at any time with the approval of the employer.
All other workers: Transfer permitted after one year of continuous employment with the approval of the employer.
If workers wish to transfer without permission of employer, the following guidelines apply:
Workers are only permitted to transfer three years after the issuance of the work permit. If the worker wishes to transfer prior to the end of this period without the consent of the original employer, the worker will have to file a complaint with the labor Relations Department of the PAM.
Employers are required to pay the recruitment agency fees, which cannot be deducted from the domestic worker’s remuneration.
Minimum wage is KWD60 (US$200) per month.
Legal working hours cannot exceed 12 hours per day including breaks. Domestic workers are entitled to an hour rest after five hours of work per day and a nightly rest of eight consecutive hours. They are also entitled to one day off per week.
Wages must be paid to domestic workers at the end of the month along with a receipt. The employer is charged a KWD10 (US$33) penalty for each month of delayed payment.
The standard employment contract for domestic workers provides for two months of paid leave after two years of service.
The employer must provide the domestic worker with decent food, housing, clothing, and medical treatment at public hospitals.
End of service gratuity is equal to one month of wages for every year of service, at the end of the contract.
Domestic workers may also lodge complaints against their employers in a local PAM office.
New domestic workers that have just arrived in the country but have not been received by their employers for 24 hours can stay at a shelter administered by PAM.
Only the Ministry of Interior can change sponsorship of a domestic worker. A worker can initiate the process through the Ministry of Interior, or in some cases with the Domestic Workers Department, which could offer a memo to the Ministry of Interior or the Civil Court (Labour Circuit).
Section III: COVID-19 Related Developments in Kuwait
Authorities in Kuwait issued an amnesty during April 2020 allowing migrant workers who overstayed their visas or were otherwise undocumented to leave the country without paying overstay fines and free to re-enter in the future.
The Public Authority for Manpower had annulled all absconding cases lodged since the start of the pandemic.
According to authorities, an employer cannot force an employee to take his/her annual leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. The labor Law provides that the employer may grant unpaid leave to the employee upon the employee’s request. The employer may not force the employee to take unpaid leave without the employee’s consent.