As I have mentioned previously, it is not easy traveling to another country that has a vastly different culture, environment, language, way of life and so on. So I can only imagine how hard it is to show up to your new job and not get paid your salary, or not have a residency, or do not have a contract and so on. Therefore I have put together questions from expat employees that are of concern. I would also like to mention that these cases are more common than you think.
Question: I have been working for a company for a few months and I have not been given any contract to sign so far. My work visa was stamped in February. In September, it will be three months since I joined this clinic. I have not been paid a single month’s salary yet. I have been asking about this to my employer almost every other day, but they just ask me to wait. In July, they only gave me KD 200 after I mentioned my difficulties at home. The salary mentioned in my shuoon (Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) paper is KD 1,200 KD. I also have a salary account with a private bank here, but with no salary deposited so far. I find it very difficult to wait any longer and I wish to get my release from here and also my pending salary. Can you please advise me what I must do?
Fajer: It is so unfair that you are being treated this way and it is unfortunate that so many others are being treated the same way as well. Since you have already mentioned your salary amount in your work permit (others really do not know what their salary amount is), you know you have a work visa and a bank account and yet you are not receiving any salary. I suggest you go straight to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and file a complaint. I should also mention that because you have not been paid your salary in a timely manner and you have the proof, you can cancel your work permit!
Question: I found your email address on the internet and I have a question if you can answer it please. I am working as a teacher in a private high school. They stamped my residence last year, which expires in November this year. Every year, a contract is made for one year. It includes a two-month probation period. Can I find another job in those first two months, terminate the contract and transfer my residence too?
Fajer: Usually, if your contract is being renewed with the same employer, then there is no probation period, but since your contract includes a probation period and since the law allows differences with the Kuwait labor law to the benefit of the employee, then you can use this clause to your benefit and terminate your contract if you want to. Just make sure you check other clauses in your contract.
Held against her will
Question: I would like to ask regarding my sister’s situation with her employer. If she has only completed one year of her two-year contract, does she need to pay her employer for not completing the contract? Also, can her employer hold her against her will if she does not want to continue working with them? Last month, they had an agreement that my sister will be able to leave after this month, and they told her that they will not give her salary for this month because the money will go towards buying her a ticket back to our country, which is the Philippines. But then last night they told her that they will not let her go and told her to stay longer, but my sister refuses to work with them. One of her coworkers tried going back home, but they would not give him back his passport and also tell him to pay KD 1,000. Is this right? I hope for your kind consideration regarding my questions about the law here in Kuwait. Thank you.
Fajer: First of all, I have a policy against answering concerns for someone else. I need to speak to your sister personally because I need to know more information, like does she work for the private sector or not? I will assume she works for the private sector and try to answer your concerns.
It depends on her contract and what it says. There may be a three-month notice clause. If it is for a fixed term like you say, she needs to continue or pay damages, and by damages, I mean 3-months’ notice or her salary for the amount of months it takes them to find a replacement. I must make it clear that the amount is not something either party can assess by themselves. It is something done in court, and common practice is 3-months’ notice. You say that your sister had an agreement with them last month – was it on paper? If so, then it can be used in court to her benefit, and therefore she should not be worried.
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed
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