Entering into a work relationship

AhmedI have been writing for the past two years on multiple platforms and as I look back on last year’s accomplishments, I am extremely grateful that I started writing for Kuwait Times. I received in total 4,862 emails in 2015. The most discussed issues are related to the labor law, and although I have discussed various parts of it on multiple occasions via my writings, my advice was mainly focused on ending a work contract. I spoke about the common issues for termination indemnity and also about transferring work permits. Therefore, in this article I decided that I will discuss the other side of labor law and that I would start right from the beginning and write about entering into a work relationship. I have answered the most frequently asked questions about the common issues that arise below:

1) I started working on Nov 5 and today is the 25th of December, and I don’t want to continue with the company because I don’t think the place is right for me. My contract says my probation period is 90 days – does that mean that I can leave within those 90 days? And if I do, what consequences shall I deal with?

I would like to start answering this question by first explaining what a “probation period” is. “Probation period” is a period of time where both the employee and the employer can test each other out to see if they are “fit” for each other. The probation period under the “new” labor law is 100 days and not 90 days, but some companies unfortunately have not updated their contracts.

If you have signed on a contract that states that your probation period is 90 days, then that specific line in the contract is not “legal” or “valid” unless it is to the benefit of the employee. Let me make it more clear with scenarios.

Scenario 1 – On the 91st day, if employee does not want to continue with the contract, then the employee can do so, because by law the probation period is for 100 days.

Scenario 2 – On the 91st day, the employer no longer wants the employee, and therefore ends the contract. The employer cannot do so because it does not benefit the employee.

According to the labor law, both the employer and employee can agree to terms that are different than the terms of Kuwait labor law, but only to the benefit of the employee. Now when it comes to consequences, one has to keep a few things in mind and be careful of visa regulations by making sure at all times that if you decide to leave, you cancel your visa.

2) When calculating the 100-day probation period, do we count only the business days or 100 days from the day employment starts including weekends?

Hundred days since the day you start including weekends.

3) I just started working for a company but they never gave me a contract to sign, just an offer letter. How do I know what my rights are? Is my work relationship still valid?

You can always prove that you have a valid working relationship with your employer regardless if you have a written contract or not. Any legal “work”, physical or mental, in return for “payment” in any form is considered an employment relationship. Any rights written in the offer letter shall be as binding as a contract would be, in the case that no contract exists. In the case that no offer letter exists or for rights not mentioned in the contract, an employee can prove that he or she is entitled to them as long as there is solid proof that these rights are on a regular basis.

For example, employee X received on a monthly basis KD 300 every month as an allowance for an apartment as well as KD 50 for transport. If the employee can prove that these payments are constant, then the employee is entitled to them even if they are not mentioned in the contract.

4) I just started working at a new company and although my contract states that my salary is KD 800, my work permit says my salary is KD 600. Is this common?

From my experience, this is very common. Is it right though? NO. Absolutely not. Fortunately, in the case of a labor dispute between the employee and the employer, the employee has the right to prove that his/her salary was not as written in the work permit and the court shall take that into account. This makes a huge difference when termination indemnity, leave balances and so on are calculated. The court shall take into account the last six months’ pay.

By Attorney Fajer Ahmed

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