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ML from Al Ain is concerned about his company flight allowance. Daniel Munoz / Reuters
ML from Al Ain is concerned about his company flight allowance. Daniel Munoz / Reuters

Keren Bobker: can a UAE employer reduce flight allowances for expats?

A worker from Al Ain is told he would receive a cash payment instead of having flights booked and paid for by the company and is left feeling short-changed when told how much he will receive. Keren Bobker has the answer.

My husband has been working on an indefinite contract for the same company in Al Ain for nearly five years. His contract states that “a return economy airfare to your home country will be provided on the completion of each 12-month period of service”. He, and other senior managers, received an email last week saying that from January 2014, they would receive a cash payment instead of having the flights booked and paid for by the company. While this is not an issue in principal they are short-changing us in terms of monetary value. Our home country is Canada and we’ve been told that the company will pay just Dh4,000 for each flight. For that price you can sometimes get a flight to Montreal, but with two stops and taking well over a day; not ideal when you are travelling with three children. To travel during school holidays it is far more expensive so we will have to pay up to half the cost of the flights ourselves. The flights that they booked for us last Christmas were close to Dh8,000 each. The company claims they have researched the costs using premium carriers but the figures just don’t add up. This decision, which I see as a fundamental change to the terms and conditions of my husband’s contract, effectively removes up to Dh20,000 from his package. We are also owed one year’s unused flights and they said they would pay us out on the new rate, which isn’t even effective yet. Do we need to employ a lawyer? M L, Al Ain

The law states that an employer cannot change the terms of an employment contract without the employee’s permission and agreement so if you will be losing out your husband can make a case at the Ministry of Labour. The ministry is generally very helpful and supportive to employees and you can contact them on 800 665. It is unlikely that you would need to engage a lawyer and my advice is to use the resources of the ministry and speak to one of its legal experts. The employer will not want to argue against the Government.

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

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