Our consumer advocate answers readers' questions on overtime payments, airfare allowances for dependents and working on national holidays.
I have been working as the finance manager for a company in a free-zone area since March of this year. Yesterday, I got a termination letter from the company stating that December 29, 2012, would be my last working day. The reason for termination is not mentioned in the letter. In September, I took out a personal loan from a bank and only three instalments have been paid until now. Can I get any protection/compensation from my employer in this case? - BZ, Dubai
Employers in the UAE are not required to give a reason to make an employee redundant and the concept of "unfair dismissal" does not apply. Assuming the employee is on an unlimited contract, as in this case, the employer only has to provide 30 days' notice for redundancy. It must also pay the employee for the time worked. He should be paid in lieu for any annual leave days that have accrued and not yet been taken. No compensation is available under the UAE Labour Law. BZ also needs to be aware that the last salary payment will be marked "final payment" and is likely to result in his bank account being frozen.
I am working as an IT engineer for a local company. As per our contracts, our work hours are from 8am to 4.30pm, with a 30-minute lunch break. But due to a heavy workload, we normally leave the office between 5.30pm and 7pm. Should our employer be paying us overtime? If yes, then on what calculation? We are sometimes told that we have to come into work at weekends for a few hours for major IT activities. In such cases, what is the calculation for overtime? After normal working hours, if we work from home (remotely) as all IT activities don't require you to stay in the office, then are we also entitled to overtime? - ZA, Dubai
Article 65 of the UAE Labour Law states that normal working hours are a maximum of eight per day, or 48 hours a week. For those working in hospitality or similar, the daily hours increase to nine per day. Article 67 states that "if circumstances of work necessitate that an employee works more than the normal working hours, the extra time shall be considered overtime, for which the employee shall receive a remuneration equal to that corresponding to his normal working hours plus an extra of at least 25 per cent of such remuneration". Article 68 says: "If circumstances of work necessitate that an employee works overtime between 9pm and 4am, he shall be entitled to normal working hours' pay plus an increase equal to at least 50 per cent of such pay." And Article 69 says overtime must not exceed two hours a day. If work is carried out at an employee's home, at their employer's request, then this should be counted as overtime and paid accordingly.
Normally, I get a day off on Sundays if I have to work on Fridays. The UAE National Day is a national holiday and falls on Sunday and this was meant to be my day off anyway. My employer refused to give me the time in lieu, saying he couldn't find anything in the UAE Labour Law that would allow him to do so. - GW, Abu Dhabi
Article 74 of the UAE Labour Law states that all employees are entitled to time off in lieu with full pay on statutory holidays. National Day is one such day. Article 81 states that if you are required to work on that day, you are entitled to full pay plus a further 50 per cent of your salary, but if you don't get a day off as well, you are entitled to an increase of 150 per cent. While you have not been asked to work on National Day, it should be a day of rest in lieu and your employer could offer you another day off, although in practice this does not happen when holidays fall over a weekend.
My husband works for a semi-government organisation and I am employed by a free-zone company. His contract states that his company will pay for annual airfares for him and his authorised dependents. I am now sponsored by my employer and I want to make sure there is not a law that states my husband is not entitled to claim for my airfare from his company. He was told that since I am working, his pay will be deducted with the amount of allowances I am receiving from my employer. Is this valid? - JE, Al Ain
There is no specific clause in the UAE Labour Law that prohibits a company from paying benefits for a spouse on their own residency visa, but the practical application is guided by the terms of the employment contract. If the original contract states that benefits are provided for the spouse, then these should be paid no matter the circumstances. They could only be changed if the contract stated that this would be the case. As no such clause was written in the contract, your husband has the right to claim all the allowances in full and the employer can't make any deductions.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org