Kuwait's new Law No. 6 of 2010 (the "Labour Law"), enacted February 21st, 2010 following its publication in the Official Gazette, replaces the previous labour law in its entirety. Besides providing for greater flexibility with respect to employee leaves and working hours, the Labour Law differs from the previous labour regulations with respect to end-of-service indemnities, reducing the restrictions for the establishment of unions, and expanding the rights of female employees. The Labour Law is retroactive in the sense that it regulates current and old contracts; however employees may not claim any benefits granted under the new law if they have resigned prior to its enactment. The bylaws, which will address issues such as the transfer and issuance of residence permits as well as the issuance of arrest warrants against employees, are expected to take effect in six months.

The Labour Law's deviation from the preceding regulations includes the following amendments:

End of Service Indemnities

In both the previous regulations and the Labour Law, end-of-service indemnities for employees paid on a monthly basis are determined by calculating 15 days' wages for the first five years of service and one month's wage for each of the following years, provided that the total amount of the indemnity does not exceed the wages of one year and a half.

The previous labour law stated that employees who had not completed five consecutive years of service and had resigned were not entitled to end-of-service indemnities. Furthermore, employees whose service exceeded five years and resigned were only entitled to half of their indemnities.

Under the new Labour Law, an employee will receive complete end-of-service indemnities at the end of his or her contract period, or if the contract is terminated by the employer or if the same expires and is not renewed. Furthermore, the Labour Law states that employees who resign are entitled to half of their end-of-service indemnities if they resign having completed between three and five years of service, two-thirds of their indemnities for completing between five and ten years of service, and full indemnities if their years of service reach and/or exceed ten years.

Syndicates / Unions

The Labour Law expands upon the rights of employers to establish unions and private sector workers to establish syndicates. Under Article 99, employers and Kuwaiti workers have the right to form unions and syndicates to protect their interests, improve their financial and social conditions, and represent them in all related affairs. The Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour (the "MOSAL") has the right to guide the unions and syndicates to ensure that the same follow the correct procedures for establishment.

Article 106 allows worker syndicates that are registered in accordance with the Labour Law to form unions to protect their common interests. Furthermore, all unions registered in accordance with the Labour Law have the right to form one general union, provided that there shall not be more than one general union for each of the workers and the employers. The establishment of unions and the general union shall be subject to the same regulations that govern the establishment of syndicates.

Unions, general unions, and syndicates are granted the right to join Arab and international unions of similar interests so long as the MOSAL is notified of the date of their joining.

Female Employees

The Labour Law expands the rights granted to female employees working in the private sector.

Previously, women were only entitled to paid maternity leave for thirty days before delivery and forty days after delivery and the employee would not be eligible for her annual leave. The Labour Law entitles women to take seventy days paid maternity leave in addition to any other leave.

The Labour Law also expands the working hours for women. Under the old law, women were prohibited from working between 8 pm – 7 am. Women are now are only prohibited from working from 10 pm – 7 am, with the exception of those working in hospitals, sanitaria, private treatment homes, and any establishments that are specified in a resolution issued by the MOSAL.

Early Reactions

The Labour law has been received with mixed reactions. While some praise the regulation as working in favour of expatriates and other private sector workers by increasing annual leaves, public holidays, and sick leaves, others (such as the International Labour Organisation) have criticised the new law, stating that there are no real special privileges granted to employees and that the rights of domestic workers (who make up a large percentage of the workforce in Kuwait) are still not adequately addressed.

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