Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Is it illegal to hire based on nationality or gender?

The Dubai resident is uncomfortable publishing discriminating recruitment adverts for her employer

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has previously warned companies that they should not circulate job advertisements that specify gender, race or ethnicity. Getty Images
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has previously warned companies that they should not circulate job advertisements that specify gender, race or ethnicity. Getty Images

I recently started work for a recruitment company and I have been asked to write and publish job adverts that ask for a particular nationality or for a woman in a specific age range. I am uncomfortable about this and I didn’t think it was right to specify like this. It is illegal in my home country but when I queried it, I was told that doing this is fine here and no one cares. Surely the UAE has laws about this? Please advise. PM, Dubai

The UAE has Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 On Combating Discrimination and Hatred and this very much applies to everyone. The issue was further highlighted in this newspaper last year and at that time the assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, Omar Al Nuaimi, confirmed the application of the law. Article 6 of this law states: “Any person, who commits any act of discrimination of any form by any means of expression or by any other means, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not less than five years, and by a fine not less than Dh500,000 and not exceeding Dh1 million or either one of these two penalties.”

The ministry has previously warned companies that they should not circulate job advertisements that specify gender, race or ethnicity and that any discrimination on the basis of someone’s religion, belief, sect, faith, creed, race, colour, ethnic ­or national origin is illegal. The only exceptions are in respect of Emiratisation or where a man or woman is required as there is some intimacy about the job, such as working in a spa or some other form of personal care.

In this situation I suggest that PM directs her management to the law and points out that they are likely to receive a substantial fine, as a minimum, if they are reported for breaking the law in this way.

I have joined a company and although they follow the law and provide medical insurance it is very basic. I’d like to know if I am allowed to take out another policy for myself so I can have better cover. Can I have two plans and do I have to tell my employer? SB, Dubai

Under Dubai Health Authority rules, it is permissible to have two medical insurance policies in place at the same time provided that a claim is only made from one plan each time. There is no requirement to notify an employer of any other policies that are in place.

My wife started working for a school last year and completed one full year. She is under my sponsorship and I gave a letter of no objection to the school for her to work with them. The school gave her a two-year fixed term employment contract. The situation has changed and she now has a recently diagnosed medical condition which means she cannot continue to work. She has now resigned and the school management are putting a ban on her and also demanding an amount equal to 45 days of her salary. Since her residence was sponsored by me, can the school demand that high amount and if we don't pay, can the school make a legal case against her? Can she be put on a immigration list for people who cannot leave the country? AR, Abu Dhabi

It is understood that Mrs R works for a private school so UAE Labour Law applies in this situation. It is unfortunate that she is unwell and so has resigned but the school is acting unfairly. As she is under her husband’s sponsorship she cannot be banned and I do wonder why employers want to take this course of action anyway as it rarely benefits anyone, especially in a situation like this.

As Ms R is on a fixed-term contract that she is breaking early, she will be subject to a penalty. In accordance with UAE Labour Law, Article 116: “Should the contract be rescinded by the worker … the worker shall be bound to compensate the employer for the loss incurred thereto by reason of the rescission of the contract, provided that the amount of compensation does not exceed the wage of half a month for the period of three months, or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter, unless otherwise stipulated in the contract.”

This will be the figure of 45 days salary that the school is requesting, although this is usually at least partially offset against the final salary payment. Any days of annual leave accrued but not taken must be paid and the employer cannot ask for anything further. An employee who breaks any fixed-term contract in this way must pay the standard penalty if requested to do so and this action is legally correct.

Not only can the school not request a ban on someone that they have not sponsored, there is no reason why she would be on any immigration list simply for leaving a job.

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

Updated: April 12, 2019 05:56 PM