Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Harsh lesson for freelancer who has not been paid

The employer is refusing to pay the Abu Dhabi based worker and with no contract in place he has no means of redress.

After I was made redundant I found a position with a company but as a freelancer, doing some contract work. No contract was signed as such, but the basis of me joining was that they would provide me with a visa, etc. if they won some business. I was happy with this as it gave me a chance to not only earn money but also see if I was happy with the company. I worked for the company for four weeks and I then left. I didn't give them any notice and they did get the business. They are now refusing to pay me even though I worked on projects that led to their success. Despite numerous emails and text messages to the HR manager, they have refused and keep coming up with excuses. As a contract wasn't signed , I am at a loss as to what I can do, but I don't want to give up as I am owed for work done. What are my options? TF, Abu Dhabi

In this situation TF has few options as he was working without a valid visa. He and the employer were breaking UAE Labour Law in this respect. A person must either be employed properly with a visa and a contract, or work as a contractor if they have their own trade licence. Neither of these were the case. When taking on an employee, a company is supposed to have applied for a visa at the time a person starts work and there should be an official contract that is lodged with the MoHRE (Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, formerly the Ministry of Labour) that confirms the start date of employment and the salary payable. It is also expected that any employee should give notice on leaving employment. I understand that TF does not have his own trade licence so is unable to undertake contract work in this way, and indeed there was no contract.

Without a proper contract of any sort — an employment visa or even an application — and no freelance or trade licence, TF is not in a legal position to take action against the employer. It is not right that a person isn’t paid for work done but I suspect the company is aware of the legal position and is taking advantage of this. A harsh lesson learned.

I was hired in April 2014 and have been made redundant today after working for the company for more than three years. What gratuity am I entitled to? MD, Dubai

If someone is made redundant they are entitled to payment for the full period of service. MD will be entitled to payment for a period of three years and several months, to the end of his notice period. This is in accordance with Article 132 of UAE Labour Law, which states: "The worker having spent one year or more in continuous service shall be entitled to an end-of-service gratuity upon the termination of his service. The days of absence from work without pay shall not be included in the calculation of the period of service, and the gratuity shall be calculated as follows: the wage of twenty-one days for each of the first five years of service." Article 133 goes on to say: "The worker shall be entitled to a gratuity for the served fraction of a year, provided that he completes one year of continuous service." This is calculated based on the basic salary and should be paid at the time service ends and the visa is cancelled.

I have a job as a cleaner in a company in Dubai paying Dh1,000 per month. I was told I can switch my job after six months although it is possible that I will be promoted after the first six months. If this does not happen, I want to switch jobs but I want to know how to do it legally. B, Dubai

I understand that OB is on an unlimited contract so provided he has worked for the company for six months he simply has to give written notice in accordance with his contract of employment, usually 30 days, and he can leave without a ban, no matter the skill level of the job. If, however, he was on a fixed-term contract he would have to pay a significant penalty for breaking the contract and this equates to about 45 days of pay as per Article 116 of Labour Law. This is in addition to giving formal notice and working the notice period. The rules regarding employment bans are stricter for employees on limited-term contracts compared to those on unlimited contracts but it partly depends on the action taken by the employer. The company can seek to impose a ban of up to six months.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 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.

Updated: July 9, 2017 04:39 PM