1 Legal framework
1.1 Are there statutory sources of labour and employment law?
The primary instrument that governs employment in the private and mixed sectors in Lebanon is the Labour Law of 1946.
Other domestic sources include:
- the Law on Regulating Foreigners' Employment, enacted by Decree 17561/1964;
- the Social Security Law, enacted by Decree 13955/1963;
- the Collective Agreements, Mediation and Arbitration Law, enacted by Decree 17386/1964;
- the Occupational Emergencies and Injuries Law, enacted by Decree-Law 136/1983;
- the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Law, enacted by Decree 11802/2004;
- the Code of Obligations and Contracts of 1932; and
- the Penal Code enacted by Decree-Law 340/1943.
In addition, governmental decrees and decisions issued by the Ministry of Labour and customary practices further regulate employment in Lebanon.
Lebanon has also signed a number of international and Arab labour conventions. For instance, Lebanon has signed the following International Labour Organization conventions, among others:
- Convention 139/1974 on Occupational Cancer (Law 116/1999);
- Convention 159/1983 on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) (Law 116/1999);
- Convention 176/1995 on Safety and Health in Mines (Law 116/1999);
- Convention 148/1977 on Working Environment (Air Pollution, Noise and Vibration) (Law 591/2004); and
- the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 (Law 235/2012).
Similarly, Lebanon has signed certain conventions of the Arab Labour Organization, including the following:
- Convention 1/1966 on Labour Standards (Law 183/2000);
- Convention 9/1977 on Vocational Guidance and Training (Law 183/2000);
- Convention 13/1981 on the Working Environment (Law 183/2000);
- Convention 15/1983 on the Determination and Protection of Wages (Law 183/2000);
- Convention 17/1993 on the Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities (Law 183/2000);
- Convention 18/1996 on the Work of Young Persons (Law 183/2000); and
- Convention 19/1998 on Labour Inspection (Law 586/2004).
The Labour Law applies to:
- all employers and employees, except for those expressly excluded by applicable law;
- establishments and their branches, of whatever commercial or industrial nature; and
- agencies and subsidiaries of whatever nature, whether local or foreign, public or private.
Employees in the public sector are regulated by Decree-Law 112/1959 on Civil Servants' Regulation and Decree-Law 115/1959 on the Establishment of the Central Investigation Office.
1.2 Is there a contractual system that operates in parallel, or in addition to, the statutory sources?
Lebanon distinguishes between individual and collective employment contracts, and separately regulates the latter in the Collective Agreements Law, enacted in 1964.
A collective employment contract is an instrument governing employment terms that is concluded between a party representing one or more employee trade unions and another party (ie, an individual employer; a group of employers; a representative of one or more professional bodies or one or more unions of employers).
The employee representative must be vested with the authorisation of at least 60% of the relevant employees in order to negotiate a collective agreement. The collective agreement shall be executed in writing and becomes binding upon the earlier of:
- publication in the Official Gazette by the Ministry of Labour; or
- one month after its registration at the Ministry of Labour.
Any trade union, professional body or employer that is not a party to the collective agreement can unilaterally decide to join the collective agreement without the consent of the initial signatories, by virtue of a written request submitted to the Ministry of Labour.
1.3 Are employment contracts commonly used at all levels? If so, what types of contracts are used and how are they created? Must they be in writing must they include specific information? Are implied clauses allowed?
Employment contracts may be oral or written. Written contracts are more common, particularly for office jobs. Employment contracts may be either fixed term or indefinite in duration.
Fixed-term contracts are executed for a specific period or for the performance of specific work. Such contracts are not subject to the severance pay and termination notice obligations detailed in question 5. Nonetheless, in case of renewal of a fixed-term contract, either by a renewal agreement or by continued execution of the contract, the employee shall be entitled to the same severance pay as would be payable under an indefinite-term contract as per Article 23 of Convention 1/1966 on Labour Standards.
The Labour Law is silent on the minimum terms to be included in the employment contract. In the absence of the inclusion of clauses which are more favourable to the employee in the contract, the minimum rights set by applicable laws – including maximum working hours and leave entitlement – are implied.
2 Employment rights and representations
2.1 What, if any, are the rights to parental leave, at either a national or local level?
A female employee is entitled to maternity leave on full pay.
The Labour Law does not grant fathers paternity leave. A draft law providing for three days' paternity leave was introduced and approved by the Council of Ministers in January 2018, but has not yet entered into force pending its enactment by the Lebanese Parliament.
2.2 How long does it last and what benefits are given during this time?
A female employee is entitled to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave, subject to a medical certificate estimating the date of birth. The maternity leave can be taken by the pregnant employee before her expected due date. The employee is entitled to take the remaining days of the maternity leave after the delivery, provided that the aggregate period of maternity leave taken by the employee prior to and after the delivery does not exceed 10 weeks.
The maternity leave to which the employee is entitled is additional and without prejudice to her paid annual leave entitlement, detailed in question 3.3.
An employer may not legally terminate the employment of an employee or serve her with termination notice during pregnancy or maternity leave, unless it is proven that she was employed by another employer during such period.
2.3 Are trade unions recognised and what rights do they have?
The Labour Law divides trade unions into four main sectors: industry, trading agriculture and artisan.
The freedom of employers and employees to establish and join trade unions is recognised and protected under the Labour Law. The establishment of trade unions is contingent on the issuance of a permit by the minister of labour.
The purpose of trade unions is limited to matters that promote a certain profession, improve its conditions, protect its interests and further its development. Trade unions must not be involved in politics or participate in meetings or demonstrations of a political nature.
2.4 How are data protection rules applied in the workforce and how does this affect employees' privacy rights?
The Labour Law does not set out specific data protection rules to be applied in the workforce. However, the recently enacted E-transactions and Personal Data Law (81/2018) protects and regulates the collection and processing of personal data, among other things.
The E-transactions and Personal Data Law defines ‘personal data' as all types of information that relate to a natural person and help to directly or indirectly identify him or her, including through comparing the data or overlapping data collected from multiple sources.
In principle, a permit is needed from the Ministry of Economy and Trade to process personal data. However, the E-transactions and Personal Data Law allows data processing without a permit in certain cases, including where the data processing is concerned with employees of commercial companies and institutions, trade unions, associations and self-employed persons, within the limits and for the purposes of exercising their activities in a legal manner.
An employment relationship under Lebanese law implies the existence of a supervisory and controlling authority of the employer over the employee. This may suggest that the inspection by the employer of work-related documents and information in the employee's possession could fall within the general supervisory authority of the employer conferred on it by law.
Furthermore, work created by employees in the course of carrying out their professional duties under their employment contract and related IP rights shall be deemed the property of the employer, unless agreed otherwise in writing.
2.5 Are contingent worker arrangements specifically regulated?
Temporary workers are guaranteed the right to severance pay as detailed in question 5, provided that they have been engaged to do certain work for at least one uninterrupted year.
3 Employment benefits
3.1 Is there a national minimum wage that must be adhered to?
The Labour Law provides that the wage payable to an employee must at least be sufficient to cover the employee and his or her family's basic needs, and must reflect the nature of the work, provided that it is not less than the statutory minimum wage.
The statutory minimum wage is determined by committees comprising representatives of the Ministry of Labour, employers and employees, and shall be reviewed subject to economic circumstances.
At the time of writing, the statutory minimum wage in Lebanon is equal to LBP 675,000 (approximately $450), as determined by Decree 7426/2012.
3.2 Is there an entitlement to payment for overtime?
In principle, the working week shall not exceed 48 hours.
The minister of labour may decide to reduce the statutory maximum working hours for exhausting work or work that is harmful to health, or to increase it for certain other work, such as that in restaurants and cafes.
The daily maximum working hours may be increased to 12 hours in urgent cases, provided that:
- the Ministry of Labour is notified within 24 hours of the matter and of the time needed to accomplish the work; and
- the wage pertaining to overtime hours is equal to one and a half times the usual hourly wage.
Moreover, employees are entitled to weekly rest of not less than 36 continuous hours. The employer may determine the day of rest, as appropriate. The employee is entitled to compensation or time off in lieu for any rest days worked.
The provisions of the Labour Law regarding working hours and rest days are mandatory. However, an employee may benefit from more favourable terms included in his or her employment contract or a collective agreement.
3.3 Is there an entitlement to annual leave? If so, what is the minimum that employees are entitled to receive?
An employee is entitled to 15 days' annual leave on full pay after completing one year of employment. The employer may determine the timing of such annual leave based on work requirements.
Employees cannot be terminated during their annual leave, unless the employee has been employed by another employer during such period.
The provisions of the Labour Law regarding annual leave are mandatory. However, an employee may benefit from more favourable terms included in his or her employment contract or a collective agreement.
3.4 Is there a requirement to provide sick leave? If so, what is the minimum that employees are entitled to receive?
Any sickness contracted by the employee as a result of his or her job or any occupational accident shall be subject to the Occupational Emergencies and Injuries Law. As for other sicknesses and accidents not related to the job, the Labour Law grants the employees the right to a yearly sick leave as follows.
|Employment duration||Sick leave duration|
|Between three months and two years||Half a month on full pay and half a month on half pay|
|Between two and four years||One month on full pay and one month on half pay|
|Between four (exclusive) and six years||One and a half months on full pay and one month on half pay|
|Between six (exclusive) and 10 years||Two months on full pay and two months on half pay|
|More than 10 years||Two and a half months on full pay and two and a half months on half pay|
Sick leave is granted to the employee based on a medical report. The employer can ask its own doctor to confirm the content of a medical report presented by the employee.
Sick leave is granted to the employee as needed up to the maximum yearly cap to which the employee is entitled based on his or her years of service, as detailed above. If this period exceeds one month, the employer is entitled to reduce the employee's annual leave to eight days.
The employee cannot be terminated while on sick leave, unless he or she has been employed by another employer during such period.
The provisions of the Labour Law regarding sick leave are mandatory. However, an employee may benefit from more favourable terms included in his or her employment contract or a collective agreement.
3.5 Is there a statutory retirement age? If so, what is it?
The retirement age is 60 for men and 55 for women.
The statutory retirement age is not of public order and an employee may work beyond this age if allowed to do so by the employer's internal regulations or by collective agreement. An employee who elects to work beyond the statutory retirement age (where permissible) shall remain subject to the provisions of the Labour Law. However, in all cases, the employee shall automatically cease to be subject to the provisions of the Labour Law as of the age of 64 and shall thereafter be subject to the provisions of the Code of Obligations and Contracts.
4 Discrimination and harassment
4.1 What actions are classified as unlawfully discriminatory?
The Labour Law protects employees from gender-based discrimination relating to the nature of the job, wages, recruitment, promotions, pay rises, professional training and attire.
The Labour Law is also protective of foreign employees' rights and grants foreign employees the same rights as Lebanese employees at the termination of their employment, subject to reciprocity in the employee's country of origin and the employee having obtained a work permit from the Ministry of Labour.
4.2 Are there specified groups or classifications entitled to protection?
The Labour Law affords special protection to juveniles and women, as follows.
Employment of juveniles: The Labour Law protects juveniles by regulating, and in some instances prohibiting, their employment where deemed dangerous or threatening to their health or life.
Juveniles must undergo a medical examination before being employed in order to validate that they are fit for the job. Medical certificates are granted free of charge by the Ministry of Public Health and must be renewed annually.
Moreover, the Labour Law prohibits the employment of juveniles on industrial projects, exhausting work or work that is harmful to their health. It provides a list of such prohibited work, which includes mining, production and use of explosives and production of alcohol.
Juveniles must not work for more than six hours a day, including at least one hour of rest if the daily working hours exceed four continuous hours; and must rest from 7:00pm to 7:00am. They must also be granted a period of rest of at least 13 consecutive hours between each work shift. An employer cannot make a juvenile work overtime, during daily or weekly rest periods, or during the feasts and holidays on which the business is closed.
Employers that breach the provisions of the Labour Law relating to the employment of juveniles are criminally liable.
Employment of women: In general, the Labour Law protects women against gender discrimination relating to the nature of the job, among other things. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Labour Law sets out a list of industries in which the employment of women is prohibited, including mining, production and use of explosives and production of alcohol. Employers that employ women in such activities are criminally liable.
The Labour Law grants a female employee the right to resign from her job when she gets married while still being entitled to severance pay, provided that:
- she has served the employer with due termination notice, as detailed in question 5.2;
- she has been employed with the same employer for over a year; and
- she provides the employer with a marriage certificate.
4.3 What protections are employed against discrimination in the workforce?
The Labour Law does not explicitly specify the measures to be taken to prevent discrimination in the workforce. The general principle of non-discrimination as discussed in questions 4.1 and 4.2 applies to prohibit employers from undertaking any acts of gender-based discrimination or discrimination in the rights of Lebanese and foreign employees on termination of their employment.
4.4 How is a discrimination claim processed?
The Labour Law does not contain specific provisions on the processing of discrimination claims.
An employee who has suffered discrimination may bring legal proceedings against the employer before the competent arbitration labour council.
4.5 What remedies are available?
As mentioned in question 4.4, the law does not set out specific remedies for an employee who has been subject to discrimination. In the absence of specific remedies, the employee may bring legal proceedings against the employer before the competent arbitration labour council.
Any breach by employers of the provisions of the Labour Law is subject to imprisonment and/or payment of a fine.
4.6 What protections and remedies are available against harassment, bullying and retaliation/victimisation?
The Labour Law does not contain specific provisions on harassment, bullying and retaliation/victimisation in employment. However, the Labour Law requires employers with at least 15 employees to establish their own internal regulations, which are subject to the approval of the minister of labour. The Labour Law does specify in detail the matters to be included in the internal regulations and the employer is free to include rules (including punishments and sanctions) which it deems necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the company and the safety of employees. These internal regulations could include protections and remedies against harassment, bullying and retaliation/victimisation, among other things.
Furthermore, the Labour Law explicitly empowers the employee to unilaterally terminate the employment contract before the end of its duration and without prior notice if, among other things:
- the employer commits an immoral offence against the employee or any of his or her family members; or
- the employer commits an act of violence against the employee.
In the aforementioned cases, the employee shall be entitled to dismissal compensation as per the applicable law.
In light of the above, it is clear that Lebanon lacks a comprehensive legal framework governing harassment in the workplace – although it has been reported that a number of draft laws tackling this matter have been proposed, but have not as yet been enacted due to opposition at different levels.
In the absence of specific laws and regulations governing harassment (including sexual harassment), bullying and retaliation/victimisation, particularly in the Labour Law, the victim can resort to the general rules (eg, of the Penal Code) to file complaints such as the following:
- Any person who forces another person to have sexual intercourse through violence or the threat thereof shall be punished with imprisonment for at least five years, or seven years where the victim is a minor under 15 years of age (Article 503 of the Penal Code).
- Any person (including an employee) who abuses his or her authority or facilities derived from his or her job to force a minor to have sexual intercourse shall be punished with imprisonment for at least five years (Article 506 of the Penal Code).
- Any person who forces another person, through violence or threats, to commit or endure an indecent act shall be punished with at least four years' imprisonment (Article 507 of the Penal Code).
- Any person who has indecent physical contact with either a minor between the age of 15 and 18, without his or her consent, or a minor under the age of 15 shall be punished with imprisonment (Article 519 of the Penal Code).
5 Dismissals and terminations
5.1 Must a valid reason be given to lawfully terminate an employment contract?
Subject to the conditions set out in the Labour Law, the employer may terminate some or all employment agreements where required to do so due to force majeure or economic or technical circumstances.
Moreover, the employer may unilaterally terminate an employment contract without prior notice or severance pay in certain cases, including following:
- The employee fakes his or her nationality;
- The employer is dissatisfied with the employee's performance during the three-month probation period;
- The employee is found to have committed a wilfully negligent act or omission aimed at harming the material interests of the employer, provided that the employer has notified the Ministry of Labour in writing of such violation within three days of its verification;
- The employee, despite written warnings, commits a serious violation of the employer's internal regulations three times in a given year;
- The employee is absent without valid excuse for more than 15 days or more than seven consecutive days in a given year;
- The employee is sentenced to imprisonment for at least a year for committing a felony or has committed a misdemeanour in the workplace during the course of his or her work; or
- The employee assaults the employer or the manager in the workplace.
Otherwise, prior written notice of termination must be served. The employee may require clarification as to the reasons for termination.
The termination of an employment contract should not be unfair or abusive.
5.2 Is a minimum notice period required?
Where a termination notice is required, the following notice periods apply.
Duration of employment
|Not more than three||1|
|Between three (exclusive) and six (exclusive)||2|
|Between six (exclusive) and 12 (exclusive)||3|
|At least 12||4|
An employer that breaches the notice period requirements will be liable to pay the employee compensation equivalent to the wages that would have been earned during the notice period. Furthermore, if the employee breaches the minimum notice period requirement and is employed by a new employer who is aware of the breach, the new employer shall be jointly and severally liable with the employee to compensate the previous employer.
5.3 What rights do employees have when arguing unfair dismissal?
A termination of employment by the employer is deemed unfair or abusive if it takes place for the following reasons:
- an unacceptable reason or a reason that is unrelated to the employee's capacity or conduct at the employer, or to the sound management and operation of the business;
- the employee's affiliation or non-affiliation with a certain professional syndicate or performance of legitimate syndicate activities;
- the employee running for elections or being elected as member of a syndicate's office or a representative of the employer's employees during the term of such task;
- the employee submitting in good faith a complaint to the competent authorities concerning the application of the provisions of the Labour Law and other texts issued pursuant thereto and filing a lawsuit against the employer accordingly; or
- the employee exercising his or her personal or public freedoms.
In case of unfair or abusive termination, the employee shall be entitled to severance pay.
5.4 What rights, if any, are there to statutory severance pay?
In case of abusive or unfair dismissal, the employee is entitled to severance pay from the employer in an amount equivalent to between two and 12 months' wages. The assessment of severance pay should take into consideration:
- the nature of the work;
- the employee's age;
- the duration of employment;
- the employee's health and family status;
- the materiality of the damage; and
- any misuse of the termination right.
Furthermore, employees are entitled to an end-of-service indemnity in an amount equal to one month's salary for each year of service, based on the last salary paid to the employee before termination. This indemnity is payable to the employee by the National Social Security Fund on his or her retirement or prior thereto (subject to certain conditions).
6 Employment tribunals
6.1 How are employment-related complaints dealt with?
Employment-related complaints are settled by an arbitration labour council, whose powers are set out in Decree 3572/1980 on the Authorities of Arbitration Labour Councils. The arbitration labour council has jurisdiction to impose penalties and settle disputes relating to:
- determination of the minimum wage;
- occupational injuries and emergencies;
- termination of employment; and
- in general, any disagreement between employers and employees on the application of the Labour Law.
The arbitration labour councils rule on labour-related disputes in an expedited manner. Their judgments can be challenged only by way of objection, third-party objection and cassation.
The Penal Code punishes any employer or employee who refuses to execute or delays the execution of an arbitral award or any other decision issued by the labour court with imprisonment of between two months and one year. In addition, the Decree on the Authorities of Arbitration Labour Councils subjects the defaulting party to a coercive fine.
6.2 What are the procedures and timeframes for employment-related tribunals actions?
The procedures and timeframes for actions before employment-related tribunals are defined in the Labour Law and in the Decree on the Authorities of Arbitration Labour Councils.
A litigant can represent himself or herself before the arbitration labour councils without needing to appoint a lawyer. The terminated party must file suit with the arbitration labour council within one month of receipt of a termination notice and may prove his or her allegations by any means.
The arbitration labour council must render its judgment within three months. That judgment may be challenged before the cassation court within 30 days. The cassation court must render its decision within a maximum period of six months.
Collective labour disputes are governed by the Collective Agreements Law. A dispute is considered a collective labour dispute where a party to the dispute is a group of employees and the dispute pertains to a collective interest.
The Collective Agreements Law encourages alternative dispute resolution and provides for mediation as a first attempt to settle the dispute. If the mediation process is wholly or partially unsuccessful, the parties may resort to arbitration before the Arbitration Commission for the Resolution of Collective Labour Disputes, established pursuant to the Collective Agreements Law. The commission consists of representatives of employees, employers and the Ministry of Labour. The commission's decision is final.
The parties can agree in a collective agreement or private contract to resolve the dispute before a special committee other than the Arbitration Commission for the Resolution of Collective Labour Disputes (except in certain cases where it is mandatory to refer the matter to the commission). The decision of the special committee may be subject to appeal to the arbitration commission, which must issue its decision within one month of the date of the first session – a timeframe which the arbitration commission can extend by two weeks where necessary.
7 Trends and predictions
7.1 How would you describe the current employment landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?
In recent years Lebanon has faced economic challenges which have had a direct impact on employers and the labour force. The unemployment rate has reportedly increased, with employers terminating employment contracts due to economic or technical circumstances, as detailed in question 5.1.
Lebanon has also witnessed an increase in the number of foreign illegal workers in recent years, which may be due to the tensions in the region, including the Syrian war and the influx of refugees.
As a result, the Ministry of Labour is primarily focusing its efforts on fighting illegal employment and businesses. The ministry has been carrying out inspections and has put in place certain policies that require employers to obtain permits for any undocumented workers, under pain of fines. The Ministry of Labour is also endeavouring to identify and close down businesses that are illegally operated by foreigners without a permit and without due observance of, and compliance with, Lebanese laws and regulations.
In 2018, the Ministry of Labour also issued a decision based on the Foreigners' Employment Law regarding jobs that must be reserved exclusively for Lebanese employers and employees (with some exceptions permitted under certain conditions), including in the banking, insurance, education and artisan sectors, in addition to the liberal professions.
8 Tips and traps
8.1 What are your top tips for navigating the employment regime and what potential sticking points would you highlight?
When hiring or establishing an employment relationship, the employer should take account of different considerations, including the applicable laws and regulations and potentially any applicable collective agreements.
The employer should also consider the specific requirements and rules governing the employment of foreign workers, including any prior approvals and work or residence permits that may be necessary.
When determining the terms and conditions of an employment contract, the parties and particularly the employer should pay attention to the mandatory provisions of the law and the minimum rights granted to the employee by law, such as maximum working hours and termination rights. Non-compliance with the applicable rules could subject the employer to sanctions as stipulated by the law.
In any case, it is always recommended that the advice of local legal counsel be sought in developing internal HR regulations and drafting model employment contracts.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.