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'UAE employees not entitled to sick leave during probationary period'

On your side: The National's resident consumer advocate Keren Bobker answers questions on unpaid sick leave and settlement of credit card debts.

The National's resident consumer advocate Keren Bobker answers questions on unpaid sick leave and settlement of credit card debts.

I have been in my job for nearly five months, but recently I badly damaged my knee and had to take a couple of days off as I was unable to walk. My boss has told me she is happy with my work and I have been working long hours, but without overtime as I am apparently some kind of supervisor. I am on a six-month probationary period as is standard with the company, but I have been told that I "cannot" be paid according to the law for the two days of sick leave. I even provided a letter from the hospital stating that I must not walk. Is this fair? FC, Abu Dhabi

Article 83 of UAE Labour Law states "During the probationary period, the employee is not entitled to any paid sick leave". Legally an employee is not entitled to be paid, but it is also not illegal for a company to pay the salary in full. It is at the employer's discretion.

In November I was detained at the airport due to credit card debt and my passport was confiscated. I immediately contacted the bank, Emirates NBD, to find a suitable repayment plan, however they insisted that I clear the entire debts before they would provide me with a clearance letter in order to get my passport back. The bank and I have managed to come up with a settlement amount, which I paid over two weeks ago, and now every time I contact them regarding the release letter, they ignore emails, don't answer the phone, or insist that they will call me back. How can I speed up the process of getting the letter in order to fully close this matter? Can you do something to help so that this matter can be settled? AN, Dubai

This should be a straightforward matter to deal with so I passed the query to my contacts at Emirates NBD. Ms N received a call the next working day to advise that a letter will be made available for her to collect at her branch of choice in the next few days. A spokesman for the bank stated, "We are pleased to inform you that our Group Customer Experience team has been in touch with Ms N and resolved the matter to her satisfaction the clearance letter will subsequently be issued at the earliest."

I've been working as a network technician for a company since October and I'm four months into a six-month probationary period. The company is located in a Dubai free zone. My employer and I both agreed that my working hours are from 8am to 5pm from Sunday to Thursday and 1pm to 5pm on Saturdays, but he also said that I would be on call if the hotel I am currently working at has issues with our service. During the project, under his supervision, I've been working almost 10 hours every day for more than a week. I barely get a break and only stop working to eat. Most of the time I have had my lunch late. Sometimes I even don't have lunch at all. Are labour laws being broken? I've also heard that in the UAE, there's no overtime pay despite reading that at least 25 per cent must be paid for the overtime. There are some other issues too. I should be paid at the end of every month, but this has often been delayed by up to 10 days. Does that count as the employer not fulfilling his obligation and violating the contract so I could just walk away? KR, Dubai

There are a number of issues that appear to be breaking UAE Labour Law. Article 65 states: "The maximum normal working hours for adult employees shall be eight hours per day or forty eight hours per week". Article 66 states: "Daily working hours shall be regulated in a way that no employee shall work over five hours consecutively without break times for rest, food and prayer with a total not less than one hour, provided that such times shall not be counted in working hours". While it is not unreasonable to accept a certain amount of flexibility, employers should be following the law. Overtime is payable to employees who are not in a supervisory or managerial capacity only and Article 67 states: "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". Furthermore, Article 68 advises that an employee should work no more than two additional hours per day. Late payment of salary really shouldn't be happening following the introduction of the Wages Protection System, but a late payment will not be classed as "violation of contract" in this case. An employee is, however, permitted to leave without receiving a labour ban if salary is unpaid for three months.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matters

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