x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Everyone is entitled to shorter working hours for Ramadan

Companies that do not offer shorter working hours to everyone during the holy month are breaking the law and can be reported to the Ministry of Labour.

Our company has been following the "reduced working hours during Ramadan" policy since it was set up about 11 years ago. We've recently hired a new head of HR, who has now decided that the non-fasting associates work regular hours and only the Muslim associates get to leave two to three hours earlier. Needless to say, this has not gone down well with the rest of the people as we do not get paid overtime for the additional working hours. My question is, what can be done in such a situation? A lot of companies do not work reduced hours, but if that is against the law, will the company be penalised or forced to comply? Could you please clarify the law about this? EF Dubai

As the company is breaking the law by not offering shorter working hours to everyone, you can report them to the Ministry of Labour. A ministerial resolution states that everyone should be permitted to work two hours less and this will be enforced, and in some cases companies will be fined. The Ministry of Labour helpline number is 800 665. I have been working for a company in Abu Dhabi for the past 10 months, but I am not happy and I want to take another job offer in India. My passport is with the company and they are saying that if I resign I must pay them one-and-half times my monthly salary and that I can only be relieved of my duties at a time that is convenient to them. My contract is unlimited, so do I really have to pay this penalty of one-and-half months' salary if I resign? Secondly, if I want to go on emergency leave, they are asking for a deposit of Dh5,000 for getting the passport, which is in their custody. SM Abu Dhabi

The first point is that it is against the law for your employer to hold your passport and also for them to ask you to pay a deposit for it. The passport is not theirs to retain and they should certainly be reported to the Ministry of Labour for this transgression. If you are on an unlimited contract, you may resign at any time and are not required to pay a penalty for leaving. Your contract of employment is likely to state a specific notice period and you must provide written notice of your intent to leave and will be expected to work for that amount of time before departure. Bear in mind that you will not be entitled to an end-of-service gratuity payment if you have not been employed for a full 12 months. It appears to me that your employer is breaking several laws and they will continue to do so if they are not reported to the Ministry of Labour. The ministry takes such matters seriously, but please act quickly as I understand they have a bit of backlog. If the company insists on retaining your passport, and breaking the law, you may also wish to consider contacting the Indian Embassy as technically the passport is the property of the Indian government and a call from them to the company may exert some pressure.

Although I have asked for it several times, my employer has not provided me with a copy of my labour contract. Can I make him give me a copy? What should I do? PE Sharjah It seems odd that an employer would not provide a copy of a labour/employment contract and you have every right to retain a copy of your terms of employment. If your employer refuses to provide a copy, you can obtain one from the Ministry of Labour. You need to take a photocopy of your labour card and submit it at the customer service counter of any Ministry of Labour office. The staff will then be able to provide you with a print out of your work contract.

I was made redundant from a company last year that has since gone bust. I've heard the owner has left the country and defaulted on salaries for staff and money to creditors. When I was made redundant, I was given a three-month grace period on the company's visa, but nobody contacted me about cancelling it and there is still nearly a year left on it. Other staff who left before the company went bust reported finding it very difficult to have their visas cancelled as the company had no money to pay for the cancellations. I'd like to be transferred to my husband's visa once we get married as we plan to stay in Dubai, but I'm not sure how a visa can be cancelled if nobody from the company is in Dubai to pay for the process or sign any documents. I imagine there must be other people in a similar boat, who have worked for companies that have gone bust and owners absconded. What do they do in this situation if they want to stay in Dubai, or indeed to leave with all paperwork and procedures properly adhered to? CJ Dubai

Since the company has effectively closed down, you can apply for cancellation of your employment visa and labour card yourself. Ideally you should have reported this matter as soon as the company closed down as the cancellation now could lead to a ban of up to one year. You should speak to the labour permit department at the Ministry of Labour to clarify how you will be treated. As you are a Dubai resident, you can apply for the cancellation of both documents at the Dubai Naturalisation & Residency Department. For the past year or so, this department has handled the cancellation of both labour cards and residency visas. You should provide any information that you can regarding the company's closure.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter. Letters can also be sent to onyourside@thenational.ae