Brunei Country Profile – Working Practices

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Working hours

The working week runs from Monday to Thursday in Brunei, with most businesses closing every Friday and opening again on Saturday. Almost all places of work are closed on Fridays and Sundays. Since a government ruling in 2012, all offices are closed on Fridays between 12pm and 2pm to allow employees to attend Friday prayers. Most employees work between 8am and 12pm and then from 1pm until 5pm. Some banks open seven days a week and are typically open from 9am to 3pm. Brunei is a predominantly Muslim country, therefore non-Muslim workers can expect working hours to be shortened during Ramadan to accommodate people who are fasting. There is no minimum wage in Brunei and employees must be aged 16 or over to work.

Holidays

Employees must work for a company for a full year before they are entitled to 12 days of paid annual leave. This increases to 14 after five years’ service. Workers are also entitled to 11 public holidays and five sick days per year.

Public holidays

There are 11 official public holidays in Brunei, including Chinese New Year which is widely celebrated across the country. Chinese people make up more than 10% of the 428,697 population. The dragon dance of the Han and the lion dance of the Cantonese marks the arrival of the lunar New Year and demonstrates the close ties with Chinese cultures in Brunei. The most important date for the predominantly Muslim population is the 11th of September, which marks Awal Tahun Hijrah, the first day of the Islamic year.

Public holiday dates 2019

New Year’s Day: 1st January

Chinese New Year: 16th-17th February

National Day: 23rd February

National Day Holiday: 24th February

Israk and Mikraj: 14th April

Awal Ramadhan: 17th May

Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Day: 31st May

Nuzul Al-Quran: 2nd June

Hari Raya Aidil Fitri: 15th-19th June

His Majesty the Sultan's Birthday: 15th – 16th July

Hari Raya Aidil Adha: 22nd August

Islamic New Year: 11th September

Prophet Muhammad's Birthday: 20th November

Christmas Day: 25th December

 

Visas and eligibility

Brunei is well set up to accommodate expat workers, who make up 40% of the population. Workers are attracted by a high standard of living and often lucrative and tax-free salaries. People who want to work in Brunei will need to apply for a work permit, which is valid for two years. Applications will only be approved if a company already exists. After a permit is issued, expats must apply for a Brunei Identity Card, which is mandatory for anyone staying in the country for more than three months. Expats wishing to stay longer can apply for citizenship by passing exams in Malay. Applicants will also be tested on Bruneian culture and customs. You can find out more about visas and work permits at the Brunei Immigration and National Registration Department.

Tax

Brunei does not tax individuals, which makes the country attractive to expats. The tax year runs from January to December but there is no need to file a tax return. However, there are hidden taxes expats need to be aware of, the main one being stamp duty. There are two kinds of stamp duty, the first applies to property transfers and shares while the second applies to insurance policies and legal documents. The amount of stamp duty paid is dependent on the amount involved. Despite stamp duties, the country doesn’t operate capital gains tax or VAT (sales tax).

Pensions

There are no schemes in Brunei to help retired expats. Retired expats can stay long term in the country, provided they can support themselves financially. The retirement age in Brunei has been increased from 55 to 60. Expats who have worked in the country for many years may qualify for a state pension if they have made sufficient payments into the government system. However, this is rare because most expats do not pay into the government pension scheme. Expats who are not entitled to a pension may be able to claim a pension from their home country on a reciprocal basis.

Benefits

Only citizens and permanent residents who have paid into an insurance scheme will qualify for the excellent social security and welfare benefits available in Brunei. Unemployment benefits and maternity payments are generally only available for citizens. Expats are advised to make financial provisions and have private insurance to cover possible costs before moving to Brunei.

Disability

In December 2007 Brunei signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ratified it in April 2016. Legislation to protect the rights of those with disabilities is still being written, but the ratification of the convention has raised hopes that progress is in the pipeline. A signal of Brunei’s renewed commitment to providing for disabled people has been further boosted by millions being poured into renovating buildings and improving access. A universal disability pension is available for those who have been a resident in Brunei for at least 10 years. Recipients must also be prepared to have treatment decided by doctors.

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