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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

'Can I file a case for unfair dismissal after being fired?'

The Dubai resident was told her position was being terminated because she "did not fit in with corporate culture"

The free zone employee is unhappy with the payout she received after losing her job. Photo: Bloomberg
The free zone employee is unhappy with the payout she received after losing her job. Photo: Bloomberg

I was employed on an unlimited contract and started work on in October 2016. It was going well, I hit targets and was promoted. The company is very sociable and I have small children so don’t go out after work and I started getting comments. I got on well with everyone but prefer to spend my time with my family.

In November I was told my contract would be terminated as they thought I did not fit in with the corporate culture, even though I was still performing well. They asked me to leave almost immediately but as they were not going to ask me to complete my notice, they would pay me for three months. They said they would also pay me the end of service gratuity and any holiday owing. I signed the resignation document and started the handover process. It now seems that the three-month severance pay was calculated on my basic salary only and I haven’t received the amount of gratuity expected. They seem to have calculated it as if I resigned so I have been paid much less than the full amount. When I queried this, I was told that I was being given three months' salary instead of the usual leaving benefits. I am not happy with how I have been treated and would like to know if I have a case for unfair dismissal? I never received any kind of warning. What is my actual entitlement as they have made me leave? AS, Dubai

The letter that AS signed refers to termination so she did not resign. This means she is entitled to benefits in full. The letter refers to severance pay based on basic salary only but this is not correct. If an employer is effectively giving a paid notice period of three months then the salary and benefits must be paid in full, not just a basic salary.

There is nothing in UAE Labour Law that states a person has to be given any warnings before being terminated but a company should have proper internal procedures. I would class this situation as arbitrary dismissal and this is covered in Article 122 of UAE Labour Law which states: "Termination by the employer of an employee’s service is considered arbitrary if the cause for such termination has nothing to do with the work."

This appears to be the case here but Article 123 goes on to say: "Should the worker be arbitrarily dismissed, the competent court may order the employer to pay a compensation to the worker. The court shall assess such compensation, taking into account the type of work and the extent of damage incurred to the worker as well as the duration of employment and after the investigation of the work conditions. In all cases, the amount of compensation shall not exceed the wage of the worker for a period of three months calculated on the basis of the last due wage." If therefore, the notice period in the contract is one month, it is unlikely AS would be entitled to much more than the three months offered although she should have a valid claim if her full salary is not paid to her. Article 123 also states: "The provisions of the preceding paragraph shall not breach the right of the worker to the gratuity entitled thereto and the compensation in lieu of notice provided for herein."

As AS has not left of her own accord she is entitled to the gratuity payment in full, albeit calculated on her basic salary, and this should not be offset against the amount paid to her as severance pay. She has the right to make a formal complaint. The company operates in a free zone but states it adopts UAE Labour Law. Therefore, she needs to approach the free zone itself, which should have a recognised dispute process.

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My father sponsors me but I work for a company in Abu Dhabi with a labour card. Is it possible for the company to sponsor my medical insurance? My employment contract states the company will provide medical but my company is saying only my sponsor can apply for my medical insurance. SS, Abu Dhabi

The Department of Health in Abu Dhabi guidelines state that: "The regulations require that…employers purchase health insurance coverage for every non-national it employs", which implies that the employer has responsibility in such a case. No employer should refuse to provide insurance to any employee, although this is intended to cover employees sponsored by the employer. Providing suitable insurance for an employee has been the responsibility of an employer in Abu Dhabi since 2008 but to secure medical cover, SS will need to request her employer sponsors her rather than her father.

It is important that cover is put in place and the Department of Health website states: "Obtaining or renewing sponsorship of any resident expatriate will not be permitted without submitting evidence of a valid health insurance policy for the sponsored person to the relevant governmental organisations."

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

Updated: January 5, 2019 01:50 PM

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