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Keren Bobker answers readers' questions on workplace and consumer law. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
Keren Bobker answers readers' questions on workplace and consumer law. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)

Part-time work, like full-time, is subject to UAE Labour Law

On Your Side columnist Keren Bobker answers UAE readers' questions on sick leave, arbitrary termination, offshort investing and getting paid.

I have been offered a part-time job, working five hours a day, but before accepting the role and signing the contract there are a couple of issues I would like to check are correct. I have been told that as it is not a full-time job most of the UAE Labour Law does not apply and that I will not be eligible for either sick pay or maternity leave, nor will I get a gratuity payment when leaving. I am on my husbandís visa. EJ, Dubai

The position that EJ has been offered is with a private company. The job, despite not being a full-time position, is subject to UAE labour laws. This means that she is entitled to the standard benefits such as paid sick leave (after the probationary period) and maternity leave on the same basis as a full-time employee, but obviously all benefits are based on her actual salary. Paid vacation time accrues in the same way, as does the end of term gratuity payment.

I worked for over six years for an American company here. My residence visa, however, is through a third party. My labour contract stated I made Dh2,000 (US$544.55) a month, although I actually earned much more. My employment was terminated with no notice. I tried to go to the Ministry of Labour and file a complaint against my sponsor - the only entity related to my employer here in the UAE. The sponsor brought a lawyer along and the visit at the ministry was not productive. The sponsor says my US company is responsible for everything - paying my gratuity, paying 30 days' pay since it terminated my employment with no notice, neither of which has been paid, but there is no one here in the UAE from my US company to hold responsible. I want to know if I have a case before paying for a lawyer. Is it OK for companies to put Dh2,000 per month on your labour contract if you are making way more? Is it OK for a third party to provide my visa? SB, Dubai

The main issue here is who is responsible for the monies due to SB. Because of the complications, I sought legal advice. Thenji Macanda, of James Berry& Associates, said: "The US company will not be recognised as the sponsor and is therefore not responsible for paying end of service benefits to the employee. The company (sponsor) named as one of the parties on the MOL contract is liable for providing notice and paying the employee's end of service benefits. In the event that the employee is entitled to gratuity, it should be calculated on the employee's last drawn salary regardless of the amount stipulated in the labour contract. Depending on the circumstances of the termination, there may be scope for a potential claim for arbitrary dismissal if the termination was not for a work-related reason." Clearly fuller information is required to provide proper advice and I would recommend that SB seek legal advice. In respect of the monies owed, article 117 of the labour law states that 30 days' notice is required if an employee is made redundant and an end of service gratuity payment should be calculated based on the final salary, excluding allowances. Any split of basic salary and allowances should be reasonable.

I am a Canadian and resident in the UAE. I would like to invest directly in American, Canadian, Brazilian and Chinese stock markets. Is there a simple way of doing it or will I have to go through brokers in those countries? KK, Abu Dhabi

To buy shares is varying markets you will need a share-dealing account, but one that can accommodate shares in more than one market. It is not necessary for an account, or even a stock broker, to be based in the country in which shares are bought. If you know what you want to buy, an account managed yourself is usually the cheapest option.

Not long ago I started working for a school in an administrative role. My employer has told all non-teaching staff that during the long summer break we will not be paid, nor get any other benefits. This was not what I was expecting as I understand the law says I can't work for anyone else while on the school's sponsorship. The contract makes no mention of not being paid in any month and I am now very concerned about money. The school director has given everyone a letter that we have to sign and return saying that we agree to these new terms. What can I do? AH, Sharjah

Once a contract of employment has been agreed and signed by both parties, one party cannot decide to change the terms without the formal written agreement of the other. It clearly states in the UAE Civil Code (article 267) that "a binding contract cannot be changed unilaterally except with mutual consent of the parties or by an order of the court or by law". The code is a general legal framework. This means your employer does not have the legal right to change the terms of your contract and cannot force you to agree to any such changes.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com

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