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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

'Do I have to work on Friday if my employer asks me to?'

The Abu Dhabi resident has been requested to work one Friday a month

The employee works for an international employer hence the need to work on the weekend. Photo: istockphoto.com
The employee works for an international employer hence the need to work on the weekend. Photo: istockphoto.com

I work for the UAE branch of an international company and we have a lot of online meetings and conference calls with other offices around the world. My boss has now said that once a month I need to work on a Friday due to a specific meeting that I need to attend. My understanding is that Friday is not a normal working day in the UAE for most people, so where do I stand legally? Do I have to do this? KL, Abu Dhabi

The issue of working on a Friday is covered in UAE Labour Law, Article 70, which states: "Friday shall be the ordinary weekly rest for all workers with the exception of the daily worker. Should the circumstances require that the worker work on this day, the worker shall be entitled to a substitute rest day, or to the basic wage for the ordinary working hours in addition to 50 per cent at least of the said wage." This means that the employer can ask a member of staff to work on a Friday but they give them a day off in lieu or pay them overtime.

Also of relevance in this situation is Article 71 as this states: "The worker may not be requested to work for more than two consecutive Fridays with the exception of the day workers’ so one Friday a month is within the law."

There is an exemption to be aware of, and this also applies to the payment of overtime, as Article 72 states that the aforementioned provisions do not apply to: "Persons occupying high - ranked managerial or supervisory positions, should such positions confer upon the occupants thereof powers of the employer over the workers. A decision of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs specifying such category shall be issued." This means that senior staff and management are exempted from the restrictions so application will depend on KL’s position in the company. I’d also suggest that building a career, rather than simply having a job, can mean that extra time and effort is required so KL needs to consider the overall situation.

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"Do I have to pay tax on UAE income when I return to the UK this summer?"

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I moved to Dubai to take up a permanent job at the end of last year. I now need to send some of my income to the UK, but I am worried that I will be taxed on this as I have not been out of the UK for a full year. I saw a recent article that said Britons must stay out of the UK for a full tax year, so I don’t know how this applies to me. Do I need to be in the UAE for a certain amount of time before I can send some money back without paying any tax? SL, Dubai

It is correct that UK expats are not formally considered UK non-resident for tax purposes until they have been living overseas for a full tax year - from April 6 one year until April 5 the following year, but it is assumed by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, the UK’s tax authority, that someone will indeed do that once they leave the UK to work overseas. This will not change unless someone returns to the UK to take up residency without having been away for a full tax year. As SL intends to remain in the UAE for work for several years, he is able to remit UAE income to the UK without having to pay UK income tax on these monies.

I have been with my company for nearly four years but have recently received a redundancy notice, along with several of my colleagues. The company has told me I need to pay back four month’s rent from my end of service gratuity and salary payments because it provided me with a housing allowance. This is unfair as I have taken a yearly housing contract and already paid the full amount to the landlord. Are they allowed to take this money back from me? HM, Dubai

The situation will depend on the wording in the contract of employment so HM needs to check exactly what it says. In most cases a housing allowance forms part of an individual’s income and if it is paid out in one go it is considered an advance on salary - therefore a full year needs to be worked to cover the liability. Employers may sometimes pay the allowance in one payment so that employees do not have to take an interest-bearing bank loan, but it is still part of the salary. It would be unusual for any housing allowance to be considered as an amount that would not need to be repaid if an individual leaves service early for whatever reason. Unless the contract of employment states that it is not repayable on not completing a year of service, then HM will need to pay back the money he has been paid in advance for the part of the year that he will not be working for this 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.