x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Abu Dhabi worker ‘harassed’ during sick leave and ordered to repay Dh65,000

Keren Bobker advises an employee who felt she had no option but to resign after just 10 months in her job.

I would like your advice as I have been requested to pay Dh65,000 in agency fees as I resigned from my job before working at my company for two years. There is a clause in my contract about this but it mentions only visa, medical and flights, etc. They are covering these recruitment costs in the ‘etc’. I was recruited for a specific role as I have nine years’ experience in this field. Despite this I was not respected and I was expected to carry out secretarial-type duties, although none of my male colleagues were treated this way. The issue escalated when I was harassed during a day of sick leave. I reported in sick to my manager at 6am and was subsequently hounded for the entire day via emails, text messages and phone calls — both on my personal and work mobile — and after hours my husband was also contacted. On my return to work I made a formal complaint with the HR director, detailing the entire incident and also my general concerns regarding my role within the business. The HR director agreed that this was not acceptable and asked me provide the relevant evidence to raise with the company’s chief executive. The next day I tried to address the issue with my manager and she cited formal complaints against me and stated I had not been doing my job properly. These formal complaints were not reported to HR and I am not aware of what they are. Following this I felt that I had no option but to resign after just 10 months. I am now being asked to pay Dh65,000 for recruitment and other fees. KSM, Abu Dhabi

It is not acceptable to ask an employee to repay their visa expenses (as per ministerial order 52 of 1989, Article 6) and the company should not be asking employees to pay for these costs. Even if they have put a clause to this effect in a contract of employment, it is not enforceable as they should not be attempting to contract around UAE law. The amount this company is demanding is also very high and in no way reflects the actual costs of an employee, so is particularly unreasonable. KSM should not sign any paperwork accepting this and if the company persists, she should raise a case against them at the Ministry of Labour. The circumstances in this case could be construed as constructive dismissal and should KSM wish, she is within her rights to make a formal complaint regarding the company’s conduct and even raise a case against them. This, however, is a costly process with no guarantee of a particular result.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 20 years of experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate independent legal advice.

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