We are blessed in Kuwait (and the GCC) to have such a diverse workforce. Some countries or some communities are homogenous; you will find that all the people in that community are from one race and one background, but fortunately in Kuwait we are a sea of humans, and it amazes me how much we can learn from each other. I am also personally blessed that I get to write for people, to share the knowledge I have, and to have people contact me.
But it also breaks my heart to see so many people affected in Kuwait with employment issues. And because we are a sea of humans, it is difficult for many of us to understand a law that is written in the state’s official language: Arabic. Many people in Kuwait do not speak the official language. They cannot and will not need to understand to read and write in Arabic. It is difficult for them not just to understand the law, but also the process, and the way things are done here. So today, I will be answering common questions about employment law and more importantly, the necessary action that my readers can take by themselves or with a help of a lawyer.
Question: I want to go to Shoon for an employment issue, do I really need a lawyer? Should I get a lawyer? And what should I keep in mind?
Fajer: Before I answer the questions, I want to explain what Shoon is. ‘Shoon’ is a word dubbed for a department under the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. It is the first stop for any legal issue concerning employment. For a case to go to court, a complaint needs to be filed in Shoon first, where an investigator will try to mediate the situation first and attempt to resolve the matter amicably for both the employee and the employer, but if that does not work out, an investigation takes place. Then the issue is transferred to court, and another lengthy process happens, where the issue is transferred from court to an expert and then back to court. Then there is a verdict (that can be appealed) and assuming the verdict is final, it needs to be executed. That is also a lengthy process. There is one Shoon in every governorate in Kuwait.
Do you need a lawyer for all of this? Although many people figure things out at Shoon without a lawyer, I suggest that if you can afford to get one then do. Employment cases are lengthy as explained above and therefore costly. How much do they cost? It really depends on what documents you have, what you are asking for and so many other important factors. A lawyer that gives you a price without sitting with you to discuss the case would be lying to you. I have so many potential clients that call the firm asking “how much will it cost me”? I respond “I do not know, come in first for an initial consultation.” This bothers them, but I would be dishonest if I gave them a price, because I might not need to go to court. I would not suggest something to my clients unless it was necessary and although many call saying they want to go to court, it just might not be the best process for them.
Question: Since you are a lawyer with experience in commercial and employment law, what are the most common mistakes that people make, or that your clients make, which can be avoided in the future?
Fajer: This is a very broad question. Instead of focusing on the mistakes one can make (there are too many to enumerate), let us think about what actions an employee can do to protect themselves in the future. Some of the most common being:
1. If you are going to resign, do it in writing.
2. If your boss agrees to your resignation, get it in writing.
3. If your boss makes any statement that can affect you in the future legally, get it in writing.
4. Read your contract carefully.
5. Ask for a copy of your contract.
6. Check your work permit.
7. Always try to figure things out amicably.
I have plenty of articles available on the Legalese section of the Kuwait Times website, www.KuwaitTimes.com, please read them.
For any legal questions or queries, email [email protected]
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed