x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Contract penalises worker for leaving early

Have a problem? Been treated unfairly? Our consumer advocate is on the case for you.

I'm currently employed and have been with the company for nine months. My job is not what I expected it to be and I am considering resigning and looking for something else, either soon, or after I have completed a year of service. What I would like to know is if I have to pay them anything? I had to sign an offer letter in which it stated that if I do not complete three years of service or I terminate the contract prior to expiry of the contract, I have to "bear any expenses incurred in the drawing up of my employment contract, employment visa, labour card, residence permit, residence cancellation and other like expenses incurred by the company on a pro rata basis for the remainder of the contract period and, by acceptance of the contract, I authorise the company to deduct the same from any monies which may be due to me from the company". If I have worked a full year, this seems very unfair, so is there anything I can do about this? MST Dubai MST signed a contract saying that she would repay expenses, so this is legally binding under contract law, separate to the UAE Labour Law, even though this states that visa costs are to be borne by the employer. She has authorised the employer to deduct these expenses so they have a right to do so, provided the charges are fair and reasonable. She will, however, be entitled to an end of service gratuity payment after a full year of service, which can be offset against any monies owed to the employer. I would generally not advise people to sign contracts of this nature, as they are very much in favour of the employer.

I have been trying to obtain a proper bank statement with my full name and HSBC's official logo, as I need to provide it to the UK Border Agency as part of a visa application. Usually, people can use their e-statement from internet banking and can get it stamped for visa purposes, but in my case my full name wasn't properly registered by the bank, so those statements were not appropriate for my visa application. I went to the HSBC branch in Dubai Mall on July 1 and asked for a bank statement. I could get one with my full name but there was no official logo - it was just a badly formatted computer printout on blank paper. I asked for a statement with the logo, but they said it's not possible unless I print out my e-statement and bring it there, but of course I couldn't because of the wrong name on my e-statements. I telephoned HSBC customer service and asked them to correct my name and for a new statement with my full name, but they said they would then only be able to provide a statement for future months. They told me to go to a major branch. My visit appointment with the British Embassy was on July 5, so I hurried to the nearest branch in Bur Dubai to get one. It was already 2pm when I got there and again I was told the same thing: I couldn't get a bank statement with the official logo and that I should just give the embassy the printout, without the logo. Getting nowhere, I waited for some time and spoke to another member of staff. I reiterated my situation and the person said he would make one with an official logo, but it would cost Dh150. I said I would pay and he said it would be ready on Saturday or Sunday and he would call me when it was ready. I visited a branch on Saturday to see if my name had been corrected, which it hadn't. Of course, the letter wasn't ready on Saturday either. The next day I went to the branch again, but the statement still wasn't ready. I waited in the branch until 4pm. The customer service person told me to pay Dh150. I paid and got a receipt. By now, I was obviously fed up with waiting and left, having been told to come back early the next morning.

The next day, Monday, was the day of my appointment with the British Embassy, at 1.15pm. I waited in the bank until 11.45am, but there was still no letter and I had to cancel the visa appointment. Of course, shortly afterwards the service manager called me saying the bank statements were ready - some two days after they were promised. It turned out, however, that all they had given me were exactly what I could have printed for myself with their stamp. The earliest date for a new visa appointment was the 15th - meaning I would have to pay almost Dh300 for the premium service to get an earlier one. Despite all my time and effort, I still do not have an acceptable bank statement and am rapidly running out of time to get my visa. Can you please help me? MHK Dubai

I referred the problem to my contacts at HSBC and a day or so later MHK received a call from their customer service department. The conclusions were that the bank will a) send a letter certifying that she is an account holder; b) refund the charge for issuing the bank statements (which has already been actioned); and c) pay for the premium service charge, of Dh275, to make an earlier appointment with the British Embassy. The letter arrived as promised and MHK had an appointment at the embassy the following day. She is delighted that the matter has been resolved so quickly. I am particularly impressed at how quickly and efficiently HSBC has resolved this problem. While, like any large organisation, the bank does make mistakes, they do appear keen to sort them out for customers. Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com