On January 30, I booked a ticket on the website of Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to Cairo. An hour or two after I booked it, I had to cancel it because my company planned to book a ticket the following day on my behalf. I called Etihad and was reassured that I would be refunded my money, but it would take 21 days. I forgot about the refund until this week, when I checked the account I used to pay for the ticket. The ticket had not been refunded 37 days later. This morning, Etihad called and said I would only receive a refund on the taxes I paid on the ticket.Is there anything that can be done? AH, Abu Dhabi
This reader's problem was referred to the corporate communications department at Etihad, which immediately realised that this was an error on the airline's part. The department responded to me within 24 hours and has confirmed that a full refund will be made to AH. This will take a short while to process, but he should receive the monies shortly. While all organisations make errors, it is how they are dealt with that is the sign of a good company.
I have been working at a school in Dubai since December 2009 and have a three-year contract. I am on my husband's visa. I will resign this summer to take a new job in another emirate. There is no notice period specified in my contract. Can you advise on how much notice I need to give? My labour card was not issued until August 2010, although I had submitted the relevant paperwork immediately. Would I be entitled to any gratuity because I am not completing my contract and can the school charge me for the cost of the labour card? If so, how much? What is the penalty for leaving before the end of the contract? Also, am I entitled to have the amount of the final settlement in writing in advance of my last day of work? Other staff members have been made to wait. LR, Dubai
I have seen LR's contract, which states that her employment will be for a three-year period. This is what is known as a limited or fixed-term contract and it makes no reference to a notice period that is required if the employee wishes to leave before the end of three years. For a fixed-term contract, however, if an employee terminates it for reasons other than those stipulated under Article 121 of the Labour Law (which refer to the employer's actions), they are liable to compensate the employer against any loss resulting from the termination. This will certainly be the case where an employment contract specifies terms on early departure, as it does in this case. The amount of compensation payable is calculated on the basis of the employee's salary for one-and-a-half-months or the salary payable for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is less, unless the contract states otherwise. The relevant contract refers to initial costs being refunded, which seems a little unfair after two-and-a-half-years of service, but if anyone signs an employment contract where the terms comply with the UAE Labour Law, the terms are legally binding, no matter how fair or otherwise they may appear. The school was remiss in not providing a labour card within 60 days of the start of employment and could be subject to a fine for this transgression. If an employee has a limited or fixed-term contract and chooses to resign before the end of the contract, they are not entitled to receive an end-of-service gratuity unless continuous service exceeds five years.
When I received a promotion last year, my boss gave me a new offer letter with a condition stating that I cannot work for any clients of the company after I leave. This was an offer letter relating to the promotion and not a contract. The only contract I signed was the labour contract some four years ago, which did not say anything about working for clients, although there was something in there about not working for a competitor. How legally binding is that letter I signed? Can the company use it against me if I work for a client? SM, Dubai
SM signed the offer letter, which was a formal document on a company letterhead. He does not work in a free zone and because he signed the document, it is legally binding. Whether anything will come of it will be dependent on the employer taking legal action because it is a separate issue to the UAE employment contract, which was lodged with the Ministry of Labour. It seems somewhat unusual to try to prevent an employee from working for a client rather than a competitor, particularly if the company wants to avoid potential problems with its client or retain them.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at email@example.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.