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Working in Kuwait
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Working in Kuwait

There's a large population of expatriates working in both the public and private sector in Kuwait. Being able to speak Arabic is advantageous but not a prerequisite, as most industries make use of both Arabic and English in their day-to-day operations. There are no specific restrictions for working in Kuwait (i.e. you do not need to hold a degree to be issued with a work permit). Private sector companies rarely, if ever, offer share option schemes to expatriates. Working for an international company will sometimes mean that you are paid in a foreign currency, such as US dollars.

Accommodation allowances and annual airfares home, although generally included in employment contracts, are not mandatory.

Finding a position with a company in Kuwait can be quite difficult. Many workers will transfer with their existing employer to a Kuwaiti branch. There are also a number of recruitment agencies which advertise positions in Kuwait. Prospective employees should be wary if a recruitment agency asks for money to process an application on their behalf. It is only the advertising company that should pay fees to the agency. Find out whether your employer offers any sort of medical insurance. If there is any chance of you being required to travel to Iraq, it is absolutely imperative that you are covered by fully comprehensive medical and life insurance.

In addition to their salary, contract workers are awarded an ‘indemnity’ at the end of the contract period. The indemnity is usually based on basic salary excluding any bonuses. The indemnity can be a significant amount of money if you’ve been working in Kuwait for a long time, and many people manage either to accumulate a reasonable financial cushion or to live the high life. If you’re clever and disciplined, you should be able to do some of both. The indemnity has nothing to do with insurance but is an end-of-contract bonus which is required by law to be paid to expatriate workers as a sort of ‘thank-you’ for being of service to the state. (It’s also known as ‘end of service benefits’.) Indemnity scales usually amount to 15 (in some cases 20) days of basic pay per year of employment for the first three years and thereafter a month’s salary per year of employment.

The working week in Kuwait tends to vary between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the particular company’s policy. Office hours are usually from 8:30 or 9 am to 5:30 or 6 pm. There are no differences in time keeping between summer and winter. In the month of Ramadan, the working day is reduced to six hours and legally this should apply to all staff, but many companies only apply it to Muslims, who fast during daylight hours.

Friday is the Muslim rest day and, if your company has a five-day working week, the other day off will probably be either Thursday or Saturday. Saturday is the more popular choice for international companies, as taking Thursday off would mean a reduction in the number of operational days in common with much of the rest of the world. Conversely, other companies insist on Thursday, as the school ‘weekend’ is Thursday and Friday.

According to Kuwait Labour Law, an employee is entitled to 14 days leave after completing a year of employment. Many employers are flexible on this in that you may be able to take leave prior to the completion of a year. Private international businesses generally give 30 days’ leave per year. Before you sign your employment contract make sure that the leave period is understood. The 30 days’ leave is usually calendar days and a vast majority of companies have a rather unscrupulous way of working out the dates, which often means that you are cheated out of a day or two. All public holidays are set by the government. Although religious holidays are set according to the phases of the moon, they may be adjusted by a day or two according to government regulations. If working for an American firm you will usually enjoy American public holidays as well as the Kuwait/Islamic holidays.





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