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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

'Am I entitled to paternity leave from my employer?'

The Abu Dhabi resident has been been told he cannot take time off after the birth of his first child

Paternity leave is an increasingly important issue for families. Getty Images
Paternity leave is an increasingly important issue for families. Getty Images

My wife and I are expecting our first child early next year and I want to take some time off. My employer says they do not offer any paternity leave, but is that correct? Does the UAE not offer leave for fathers? DR, Abu Dhabi

As at time of writing there has been no amendment to UAE Labour Law to include any days for paternity leave for male employees in the UAE. Earlier this year, however, the newly launched National Family Policy, a government committee, announced it is currently working on a paternity leave law although the details have yet to be confirmed. At this stage we have no information as to what form this might take.

The only official paternity leave available is for employees of the Abu Dhabi government, where men are entitled to three days paid paternity leave. This applies to all civilians working in government branches in the emirate and is available after the birth of each child. There is no legal requirement in other emirates or for any private sector employers to provide this. However, some firms have set their own policies and choose to offer paternity leave at their own discretion.

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I joined a company in January 2017 as a sales supervisor. In my offer letter it said the notice period was 60 days. In December last year, the company terminated many employees but I was asked to stay with a demotion and a reduced salary. I didn’t have a choice, so I stayed. This was an internal agreement with no change to my labour contract. In addition, the company made a payment to me of Dh14,000. They then gave me my leave salary for one month only, my gratuity and money for a flight. A while later I got my old position back with family status. I then received a good opportunity with another company, so I resigned and worked a little longer than my 60-day notice period. According to my contract, after one year I am entitled to plane tickets for myself and my family. I left on September 30 and the company says it will not provide me with the cost of tickets pro rata for nine months as I did not complete a year. But I was with them from January 2017 until September 2018. Do they owe me money for flights? MM, Abu Dhabi

Based on MM being paid money at the time he was demoted and his terms of work changing, it appears his employer ended one contract and started a new one. The payments made to him demonstrate that this is the case, especially as a payment for an end of service gratuity was paid. Although this is irregular and not what is recommended, the payment was accepted so it will be considered the change in situation was also accepted. This means the start date was reset after the payments. The period of employment for further benefits is therefore calculated from January 201,8 so the period of service is only nine months. If the contract states that flight benefits are payable after one year, the company is not obliged to make a payment for a period of less than one year. A pro rata payment would only be due if the contract clearly stated it would be payable in this situation and it does not. My view is that no money is due to MM.

I have been terminated by a company and worked 30 days’ notice as requested. Now the manager has said if I want to have my visa cancelled I need to sign the cancellation documents accepting all of the payments have been done from the employer’s side. The problem is that the company has not yet paid salaries for September and October or the end of service gratuity. If I sign the documents in order to have the visa cancelled, will I still be able to get the money if they don’t pay later? Or should I not accept the cancellation? MP, Abu Dhabi

No one should sign cancellation documents that state they have received money due to them if that has not happened. If an employee signs the cancellation papers confirming that they have received payment, it will generally be assumed they have been paid in full and have no further claim against the employer. Making a formal complaint against a company in such a situation will be much harder. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation is far less likely to deal with a complaint in such a situation, as the visa would have been cancelled and the individual would no longer be under the sponsorship of the company.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 25 years’ 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