Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

'Can my employer stop me working elsewhere?'

Any non-compete clause is designed to apply to senior staff, not to prevent people from changing job

Competition rules are designed to protect companies where senior staff may hold sensitive data. AP
Competition rules are designed to protect companies where senior staff may hold sensitive data. AP

I am working as electrical engineer in a construction company in Dubai. My company never gave me a copy of my employment contract. At the stage of signing the contract my HR director just gave me a page where I was supposed to sign. Fortunately, I got a copy of my employment contract from Tasheel and I came to know that they have added article 127 of Labour Law with these words, "2nd party cannot work with competitor in UAE for two years after resignation or cancellation according to Article 127. In such case, the additional conditions shall not breach Applicable Laws, or the articles stipulated in this Contract or the Annex hereof. In case of adding such conditions, this Contract and the Annex hereof must be referred to the relevant labour relations authority within MOL for review and prior to approval thereof."

Can you explain what exactly this means? The contract states that both parties have agreed to these conditions. DA, Dubai

The actual wording of Article 127 of UAE Labour Law is, "Should the work entrusted to the worker enable him to meet the clients of the employer or know the business secrets thereof, the employer may require from the worker not to compete with him or participate in any competing project upon the termination of the contract. For the validity of such agreement, the worker shall be twenty-one years old at least upon the conclusion thereof, and the agreement shall be limited, with regards to time, place and type of work, to the extent necessary for the protection of the legal interests of the employer."

The wording is very clear regarding the need to do this and the wording in DA’s contract is highly unlikely to be upheld if contested as it goes beyond what would be considered reasonable. Any non-compete clauses must only limit conduct in ways that are necessary to protect legitimate business and legal interests. Would an electrical engineer be in a position to know confidential company information and act to the detriment of the employer on leaving? I think we can safely say that is not the case. Such clauses are designed to apply to senior staff, not to prevent people from changing job.

With this in mind the clauses must be limited in duration, geographical scope and the nature of the restriction. Restrictions of more than six months are unlikely to be upheld and the employer would have to prove that they have been disadvantaged in some way to make a monetary claim. A period of two years is excessive in this scenario.

Any penalty can only be enforced by way of a court ruling and the employer would have to bear the cost of making a legal claim. They would also need to demonstrate that DA was aware of this clause, which does not appear to be the case. As we see so often, this clause has not been included in a contract for a valid reason and I do not believe that it can be enforced.

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I want to get a driving licence in Ras al Khaimah as I live here but my visa is from Dubai. The owner of my company has businesses in both emirates and I am working for the Dubai one but in Ras al Khaimah. My boss will give me a NOC but how do I get a driving licence here in Ras al Khaimah? MI, Ras al Khaimah

Where someone has residency in an emirate, whether they actually live there or not, they can only obtain their driving licence in that particular emirate. This is the case whether someone is seeking to exchange an existing driving licence for local one, or want to learn to drive from scratch. As MI has a Dubai visa he must follow the same procedures that apply to all Dubai residents. As MI is an Indian national he is not eligible to transfer an existing driving licence as India is not on the list of "approved countries". He must therefore undergo training and then take two tests; one practical, one theory. A series of lessons must be taken with a Dubai registered driving school which will also guide someone through the whole process.

I have been employed by a company based in Sharjah for three months now but I do not have any medical insurance from the company. They said they would give me this in the interview but it wasn’t in the offer letter or other papers but surely they must give me this according to the law? I had insurance from my last company. NK, Sharjah

There is only a legal requirement for employers to provide insurance for employees with Abu Dhabi or Dubai visas. For residents with visas issues in any other emirate there is no mandatory requirement and it is up to the employer to choose to set up a company scheme. It is disappointing if a company said they provided this at interview but there is nothing that NK can do as he accepted the written terms of employment.

Updated: August 25, 2018 03:07 PM