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Kuwait: School refusing to pay wages, do I seek legal advice?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by MissHenderson96, May 6, 2020.

  1. MissHenderson96

    MissHenderson96 New commenter

    I work for a school in Kuwait as a teacher, I decided to leave this year and therefore, handing my notice in November and accepted a new job in Thailand in the January. When I signed by new contact with the school in Thailand the original School dates were still in place and the summer holidays were scheduled to start June 20th.

    As the ministry have now said that those children who have not completed e-learning must attend school in August. My Kuwait School is now claiming force majeure and have told leaver staff that if they are not in Kuwait in July they will not get paid, if they do not return to work for the month of August they will not get paid their August salary, gratuity, flight allowance or have any of their flat deposit returned. All in all about £7,000 if I get my July pay.

    Can they legally do this?
    Is anyone else who works internationally having an issue like this?
  2. dumpty

    dumpty Star commenter

    Unless it is stipulated in the contract re force majeure then I would say no.

    Having also worked in international schools (mainly Asia) I would advise trying to keep calm and plug away but with an acceptance it could end up cheaper letting it go than fighting it unless - to be fair - the Kuwait system has easy access law offices for you to go to.

    Just keep returning to and reminding them of the actual contract. Normally if something is not in it, it cannot be added later as they are trying to do.
    agathamorse likes this.
  3. MissHenderson96

    MissHenderson96 New commenter

    You sound a lot more clued up on this than me. Would you be open to me emailing you a copy of my contact so you could take a look?

    thanks you so much for your reply, I’m really at a loss of what to do.
  4. Bentley89

    Bentley89 Occasional commenter

    I would 100% fight this. It is unreasonable and simply a means of cost-cutting. I, too, am in Kuwait, but fortunately in a school where our full pay and benefits have been protected. I have a very strong feeling I know which school you are referencing and they have been crooks for their entire existence! Don't let them get away with it. There are many law firms here who would love the opportunity to represent you and I'm pretty sure once their shiny image is put in the firing line, they'll soon make more reasonable arrangements for you.

    They are expecting you to walk away defeated (because that's how they treat and train their 'numbers' (not people) to feel) and as a result, save on hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process. If I were you, I'd fight it, especially as you are leaving and have nothing to lose. Maybe team up with other teachers in your position?
  5. dumpty

    dumpty Star commenter

    Sorry I only just noticed you had replied. Ah, I have been back in the UK two years now so my old contracts are hard to find plus they were not relevant to Kuwait.

    As @Bentley89 has said, it does appear you have law firms there and hopefully they won't charge or not too much for a view on what you can do.

    It sounds simple but any time I had issues I would just get the manager in and ask where it said in the contract they could do whatever it was - that was always the end of it.

    It sound to me like they are also in Kuwait just trying it on and hoping you won't moan or fight back. If you do, they may well surprise you with how quickly they back down.
    Bentley89 and agathamorse like this.
  6. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    Personally, I'd talk to the Thailand school and explain the situation, to see what they say, if they can be flexible. Given the precarious state of recruitment, I think they might. There is also no guarantee that you will even be able to get into Thailand to teach for all kinds of reasons, so I'd be tempted to aim to see out the Kuwait job til the bitter end, grab the money then look at moving to Thailand.
    dumpty likes this.
  7. norwichred

    norwichred Occasional commenter

    Oh I missed this thread! Do you work for my school? They’ve done this!
  8. rorydepp

    rorydepp New commenter

    Good luck with that, do you think british law applies there? Very naive of you.
    Luvsskiing likes this.
  9. Bentley89

    Bentley89 Occasional commenter

    Sorry, but who claimed that British law applies in Kuwait? I can't even see anyone even mildly insinuating that...

    There is a Kuwait Labour Law and this applies to all with a contract (taking 'wasta' and foul-play out of consideration of course). The OP is allowed to challenge any illegal decisions made by crook schools if it contravenes any of these laws.
  10. rorydepp

    rorydepp New commenter

    Challenge any illegal decisions in a language she doesn’t understand? Again, good luck with that.
    Luvsskiing likes this.
  11. GeordieKC

    GeordieKC Occasional commenter

    If this is a problem caused by a teacher accepting a new contract that commences before the previous contract expires, then they may have to accept the financial hit. I really sympathise, this is a very common practice internationally and I have never known it be an issue before, but these are not normal times.

    Get legal advice, the best route out of this situation is to convince the school the expectation to teach in August is not covered by the contract. Unfortunately my instinct is that it may be legal, IF this is based on a government directive - I would still get a legal opinion on whether the school's interpretation of any directive is correct.

    Also check with the Thai school, can they actually get you into Thailand for an August start? If they need you in country earlier than expected, will they compensate you for at least some of the losses that you will incur.
  12. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    It's going to depend on the wording in the contract. Most international contracts usually state dates, so for example 1st August 2019 - 31st July 2020. So they could reasonably expect you to be in Kuwait for July (whether or not you can get there might be a different point) but contractually you would not be employed by them for August.

    Where I could see it being difficult is if your contract stated it was for the school year (eg 2019-2020) and the government and/or school extended the school year into August. This might be how they are trying to play it and it would make it a bit more difficult for you. Reasonable people would accept that COVID-19 is an unexpected occurrence and that in January when you signed for the Thai school you could not have expected the current situation - but your employers may not be reasonable....

    It's also possible that you won't be in Thailand in August. So, in theory, you could actually be quids in if you are in Kuwait just now and you are able to make use of the time differences!
  13. Bentley89

    Bentley89 Occasional commenter

    So you're suggesting that not a single Kuwaiti solicitor/lawyer can speak English? And you're just assuming that the OP cannot speak Arabic? She doesn't need luck - she needs to discuss with a lawyer. Potentially a lawyer who speaks English or find someone who can translate to Arabic if she doesn't speak it herself.

    Well done for contributing absolutely nothing to this thread.
  14. Duraz

    Duraz New commenter

    When I was in Qatar someone decided to fight something similar at the end of their contract. Rather than backing down the school took the employee to court and let the employee know that it was impossible to leave the country with an active court case. The school delayed and delayed proceedings. She was kicked out of the school accommodation, hotel costs escalated extremely quickly... You can guess who backed down first.

    Don't fight, it's not worth the hassle.

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