By Fajer Ahmed
As most people are aware, the pandemic changed many different aspects of our lives, including the working environments we are used to. Although it has been two years, we are still dealing with and understanding some aspects. The Kuwaiti government did issue ministerial decrees to discuss important labor issues, such as stating that an employer cannot force his employees to take their annual leave during a lockdown and that an employee’s salary may not be cut. With that said, we are still anticipating court decisions regarding these matters, which usually take years to be issued, but will help us understand the laws and consequences of the pandemic.
One question that has been left unanswered is whether foreign employees are entitled to airfare – an airline ticket once a year to go back home – during a pandemic.
Question: My contract says I am entitled to airfare equivalent of KD 200 every year to go back to my home country. But during the pandemic, since I could not fly, I was not able to get a ticket, and my workplace did not provide me with the money for the ticket. I have been receiving it for the past 20 years. Am I legally entitled to it?
Fajer: This is a tough question to answer, and it might be considered a grey area. My opinion though is if the contract strictly and clearly states that you are entitled to not an airline ticket but a certain amount for an airline ticket, and you have been receiving the amounts consistently throughout the 20 years, then you should be able to receive it, as under law, any bonuses or yearly entitlements become part of your salary.
With that said, the pandemic did hit companies hard, and the law did state that as an employee, you can let go of some of your rights for the benefit of the company, with your consent of course. If you feel this way, and you think the company is struggling financially, then maybe you can reach an agreement with the company to be paid later or in installments for these tickets.
For readers whose contracts did not specifically state an amount equivalent for a ticket and just a ticket, this will depend on the wording and the agreement, and also as stated above, the consistency and the way that the ticket has been given previously. But there could be a chance that you are not entitled to a ticket in the years that flying was not possible.