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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

'Can my bank close a dormant account with money in it?'

The customer rarely uses the account but has several linked accounts that are active

The reader wants to make a complaint about her bank account's closure. Getty
The reader wants to make a complaint about her bank account's closure. Getty

I have several accounts with my bank, but only really use two of them. I have now found out that a third one has basically been closed by the bank and marked as dormant because I have not used it for a year. But there is money in this account. Apparently, the fact I use the others regularly is not enough to keep it open and I have been told to go to a branch and they will see what they can do. I am travelling on business outside of the country for the next month, so this is no good to me and I am quite annoyed. I plan to make a complaint, but I would like to know the legal position in a situation like this. Can you advise? BC, Abu Dhabi

It is fairly standard for a bank to close an account that is not used for six months. This generally happens though when there are no transactions on any linked accounts, so it does not seem logical in a case such as this when other accounts are clearly active.

The topic is covered in a Central Bank of the UAE circular, titled: Regulations Regarding Bank Loans & Other Services Offered to Individual Customers, issued in February 2011. Article 9b states: "None of the opened accounts can be considered 'dormant' if the customer's address is known or if the customer is present and has other active accounts with the bank. Accounts are classified as dormant only in accordance with the provisions of these regulations issued by the Central Bank in this regard."

It is quite clear that the bank has no grounds for closing the account in question and I suggest BC quotes the Central Bank's guidance in this matter to his bank. If they refuse to reactivate the account, he can make a formal complaint to the Central Bank via their website www.centralbank.ae.

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Is it legal for my employer to deduct money from my salary during my probation period? I'm a secretary in a private company and have been told that the deductions were made because I did not inform my boss straightaway about people leaving the office during working hours. Another reason was because I did not answer the phone immediately when he called to ask a question. MV, Ras Al Khaimah

UAE Labour Law is clear regarding how and when an employee can be subject to a salary deduction, but an employer may not just reduce a salary for minor reasons in this way – this seems to be a breach of authority. The law applies fully to anyone on probation, not just permanent employees. If the employer has issues with a member of staff, there are steps that should be taken, as good practice by any company, and the first step for a serious error is a warning. To immediately deduct money from someone, and during a training period for a minor error, is unacceptable. The law states that no penalty can be applied without having been given formal notification of action to be taken, per Article 110. The correct disciplinary steps have not been followed in this situation and I would be doubtful of the employer having followed any other part of Labour Law in this regard.

Any amount deducted must be clearly communicated to the employee per Article 104, which states: "The fine may be a specific amount or an amount equal to the wage of the worker for a specific period. The fine prescribed with regards to one breach may not exceed the wage of five days. Furthermore, for the settlement of the fines imposed on the worker, a maximum amount equal to the wage of five days may be deducted from the wage of the worker per month."

Article 105 of UAE Labour Law goes on to say: "Fines imposed on workers shall be recorded in a special register along with the cause and circumstances of imposition thereof as well as the name and wage of the worker. A special account shall be allocated therefore and the monthly proceeds thereof shall be used for the social welfare of the workers in accordance with the decisions issued by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in this regard."

It is clear that very specific rules apply regarding deductions and such fines must not be used as a method of ongoing staff discipline or of trying to reduce salary payments. As such, MV’s employer is not acting in accordance with UAE law, or even good employment practice.

As MV should have a residency visa from the outset, even if on probation, I suggest she makes a formal complaint to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, or her local labour office, known as Tas’heel. She should also bear in mind that anyone on probation can be terminated immediately, without notice, but I urge her to look for another position with a better employer rather than remain with a company that thinks it is acceptable to treat employees in this way.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 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

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