Employees work between 40-48 hours a week in the Kingdom of Bahrain with most offices and businesses operating from 8.30am – 5.30pm. During the month of Ramadan, which varies depending on the moon’s cycle, hours are cut to six per day. This is a legal requirement and should apply to all employees. However, the reduction in hours sometimes only applies to Muslim workers so it is best to check with your employer. Muslims take Friday as their rest day so the weekend in Bahrain is usually Friday and Saturday, with Sunday being a working day.
Holiday entitlement is considered generous in Bahrain, despite changes being made to the laws in recent years. Under the Labour Law in 2012, private sector employees who have worked for more than a year in Bahrain are entitled to 30 days paid annual leave which includes weekends. Prior to this, workers were entitled to 21 days excluding weekends.
There are up to 13 public holidays a year which are observed in Bahrain. Muslim festivals are timed depending on the cycles of the moon, so holiday dates may change each year. Most offices and government departments close during these times. Because the weekend in Bahrain is Friday to Saturday, if a public holiday falls on these days a public holiday also falls on the next weekday. For more details, visit the Labour Market Regulatory Authority website.
Public holiday dates
New Year’s Day: 1st January
Eid Al Fitr (End of Ramadan): 7th - 9th July
Eid Al Adha: 11th - 13th September
Al Hijra (Islamic New Year): 2nd October
Ashura (Feast of Sacrifice): 10th - 13th October
Milad Un Nabi (The Prophet’s Birthday): 12th December
Bahrain National Day: 16th – 17th December
Visas and eligibility to work
To enter Bahrain, all people who are not native to one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudia Arabia and UAE) need a visa. To qualify for a visa, applicants must state their purpose for visiting the country, their nationality and their current address. Most visas for Bahrain must be sponsored, or obtained on your behalf by your company, hotel or travel agent. Unsponsored visas are only granted for specific reasons and to certain nationalities. Most visas must be applied for before travelling to Bahrain. The type and length of visa granted will depend on the purpose of visiting the country. For more details, visit the website.
There is no income tax in Bahrain, an obvious advantage for foreign workers. In recent years a small ‘social insurance tax’ has been introduced by the Government but is only around 1% of a yearly salary. Capital gains and inherited income is also untaxed. However, expats must pay a municipal tax of 10% based on the value of the property. Bahrain has no VAT except on fuel where a 12% charge is imposed. While tax in Bahrain is considered low, money earned there and sent back to an expat’s home country may be subject to certain taxes.
Expats who have lived and worked in Bahrain, or any of the other GCC states, can settle permanently in the country and this is seen as the only way to qualify for a state pension. The law on state pensions was introduced in 1976 and applies to men aged 60 or over and women aged 55 or over. There are various pension schemes available in Bahrain which depend on a worker’s salary and whether they have made contributions to a private fund.
The Bahrain social security system mainly exists to help its citizens and there is very little available for expat workers. There are no social security contributions deducted from wages with employees only responsible for building up their pensions. While Bahrainis are able to apply for benefits for unemployment, housing, disability and sickness, foreigners are only eligible for free basic medical care. If it is not covered by your company, taking out private medical insurance is advisable.
The rights of disabled people are covered by the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was ratified by Bahrain in August 2011. The measure was considered an important step towards improving the lives and providing greater opportunities for disabled people. The Disabled Services Centre in Bahrain specialises in employing disabled workers for both the private and non-government sectors. For more details, visit the website.