Visas and salary ques­tions

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By Fa­jer Ahmed

As I ex­plained in last week’s col­umn, I re­ceive a lot of le­gal queries. The most com­mon is­sues are in­evitably la­bor re­lated. There’s a large ex­pat com­mu­nity in Kuwait, be­cause a lot of peo­ple move to Kuwait to work. The Kuwaiti mar­ket has a wide va­ri­ety of sec­tors and a large num­ber of job open­ings, yet Kuwait still ranks high as one of the worst places to live and work. Why? It is sim­ple; some big com­pa­nies take ad­van­tage of their employees and this is why I have de­cided to an­swer ques­tions in a way that can help read­ers avoid such sit­u­a­tions with a few ad­just­ments here and there.

Ques­tion 1: I just re­cently got a job in Kuwait and even though I have an of­fi­cial signed con­tract with my em­ployer, my em­ployer has brought me into Kuwait on a tourist visa. My em­ployer states that this is the reg­u­lar pro­ce­dure in Kuwait and that it will take up to three months for me to get my proper work­ing visa. Is this ac­cept­able?

An­swer: Al­ways al­ways al­ways make sure you have a valid work­ing visa. Do not work in Kuwait with a tourist visa, even if it is just tem­po­rary. Some com­pa­nies will pro­long the re­quire­ments from the gov­ern­ment to fi­nal­ize your work visa. Some com­pa­nies try to avoid the process be­cause they can­not legally hire any more ex­pats, they have reached their cap and need to hire a cer­tain per­cent­age of Kuwaiti employees, or they are avoid­ing reg­is­ter­ing you for now, so when they come to ter­mi­nate you the process be­comes eas­ier and you lose your rights as an em­ployee.

Ques­tion 2: How do I pro­tect my­self and what should I be aware of when I first start a job in Kuwait?

An­swer: Al­ways get some­one you trust to trans­late your work per­mit. This is a pa­per is­sued from the Min­istry of So­cial Af­fairs and La­bor. If any dis­pute hap­pens be­tween your em­ployer and you, this pa­per will be used to prove your job po­si­tion and your salary. (Al­though in court you can prove your job po­si­tion and your salary in other ways, your work per­mit is the of­fi­cial pa­per.)

A lot of com­pa­nies will pur­posely reg­is­ter their employees with lower wages than they ac­tu­ally make, so that when the work re­la­tion­ship ends they will give them their ben­e­fits ac­cord­ing to the wages reg­is­tered and not to what they really earn. Let me give you an ex­am­ple, let’s say you make KD 300 a month, and let’s say you were ter­mi­nated, here the com­pany needs to pay you KD 900, in­stead if you are reg­is­tered un­der the work per­mit to be making KD 150, the com­pany will pay you KD 450. As lawyers we know ways around this, to ob­tain the re­main­ing money, but you don’t al­ways want to hire a lawyer.

It might seem ob­vi­ous but do not sign any­thing in a lan­guage you can­not understand, un­less the trans­la­tion is along­side/on the same page that you are sign­ing as well, and the English clearly says that there is an Ara­bic version.

Bank ac­counts and not sign­ing any­thing

A very com­mon mis­take I see as well is employees al­low­ing their com­pa­nies to open bank ac­counts in their names, and keep the ATM/KNet card with the com­pany. The com­pany does this, so they can trans­fer salaries and ben­e­fits to the ac­counts then with­draw the money back, while pay­ing the em­ployee in cash. When some­thing hap­pens and the client wants to prove that they were never paid their ben­e­fits, they can’t prove it, in fact the com­pany can prove oth­er­wise, be­cause they would have de­posited the amounts in your ac­count and will have proof.

Try to get as much as you can in writ­ing, your salary, your con­tract, your res­ig­na­tion let­ter and so on.

I hope the above was help­ful, if you have any fur­ther ques­tions about the topic or any other le­gal top­ics, please feel free to email me at ask@fa­jerthelawyer.com.

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