Keren Bobker answers questions on how to spot genuine Etisalat technicians who come knocking on people's door and the consequences of not finishing a limited contract.
How do I know that those two men are really from Etisalat?
A few days ago three men knocked on the door of my villa in Umm Suqeim claiming to be from Etisalat and asking if I had eLife. They were casually dressed, rather scruffy in fact, on foot and did not present any form of identity. I was rather suspicious and did not let them in, but would like to know if they were likely to be genuine or if they were up to no good. BH, Dubai
It is not usual practice for major companies to go knocking on people's doors in this way and when I checked with Etisalat they confirmed that these men were not employees. Etisalat has also confirmed that all of their technicians carry formal identification. In such a situation, you can always call the relevant company to check. If in any doubt whatsoever, never let an unknown person into your home. If you think someone is acting in a dubious way you should call the police, who will investigate.
In May 2012, my wife and I booked Etihad flights for both our mothers to spend Christmas and New Year with us. A while later, tests on my mother-in-law diagnosed dangerous, potentially cancerous, cells, and on October 30, the consultant decided to operate immediately. There were complications with the operation and my wife flew back to the UK that day on the first available Etihad flight, returning to the UAE several weeks later. On October 20, the surgeon decided that a five-month programme of chemotherapy was required. At this point, the December trip had to be cancelled for my mother-in-law, although my own mother is still coming out. We were hoping to have the flight refunded, but currently, we have only been told we can book a new date within one year of the original booking, so the flight has to be taken by May 21, 2013. This is just a few weeks after the my mother-in-law's chemotherapy finished, by which time she will be 69 years and in her condition it will be too hot for her to come to the UAE. I have been in contact with Etihad, but am not getting a response. PC, Abu Dhabi
Mr C was getting rather frustrated as he had also forwarded evidence of his mother-in-law's condition to Etihad. It is not normal practice for an airline to make a full refund as they would expect passengers to have travel insurance, which should cover the cost of the flight. This, however, is not easy to obtain for older people. I referred the issue to my contacts at Etihad who were sympathetic. At the same time, the customer service division replied directly and the airline has made a full refund of the cost of the ticket in question. Mr C is very happy with the outcome.
I was working under a journalist visa for a media company in Dubai. I signed a two-year contract, but due to personal circumstance had to leave the country suddenly after five months. As I left of my volition before the end of the contract time frame, I did not pick up my last month's pay cheque. However, I understand that they paid money to bring me over and have accepted this as a loss. The company has since opened a case with a labour disputes court. I have said I will do anything I can to be of help, and they seem to have let it lie as neither of us want to fight about circumstances out of my control that I have explained and tried to compensate for. My dilemma is this: I am now working for a new company in Europe who want me to attend a conference in Dubai. I have heard that I can't return to the UAE until my previous work visa expires, which is not until 2015. Is this true? Could I be stopped or charged or get in trouble for going into the country before the dispute is fully resolved? LD, Dublin, Ireland
It appears that LD had signed a Limited Contract. If so there are consequences for breaking it early. Article 116 of UAE Labour Law states, "If the contract has been terminated on part of the employee ... the employee becomes liable for compensating the employer against losses incurred by him in consequence of contract termination, provided that the amount of compensation, may not exceed half a month's pay for a period of three months or for the remaining period of contract whichever is shorter, unless the terms of the contract provide otherwise." If she did not get paid for the last month, LD will still owe half a month's salary. She should check the wording of the contact in case she agreed to different terms. Although not in UAE Labour Law, if an individual signs a contract that states they will pay the employer the visa costs on leaving early, it is enforceable. Once a person have been out of the country for six months a residency visa lapses, though the company should officially cancel it. There is no requirement to remain out of the UAE until a visa would have expired, but it should be cancelled. A case with the Ministry of Labour shouldn't present an issue with coming to the UAE, but it would be wise to check with the ministry. Contact info is at the ministry's web portal at mol.gov.ae/english/newIndex.aspx.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at email@example.com