Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 4 August 2020

‘My employer terminated my contract during my maternity leave. Is that legal?'

The Abu Dhabi resident says the dismissal is not based on her performance or the pandemic

According to the UAE Labour Law, an employer is not permitted to make an employee redundant for being pregnant or while on maternity leave. Getty Images
According to the UAE Labour Law, an employer is not permitted to make an employee redundant for being pregnant or while on maternity leave. Getty Images

I have an issue with my employer as I have been laid off during my maternity leave. This has nothing to do with the coronavirus situation. I work in an office and my role is still required. The termination is not related to my performance either. What are my rights and what can I do? EC, Abu Dhabi

The UAE Labour Law makes no specific reference to termination during pregnancy or maternity leave but an employer is not permitted to make an employee redundant for being pregnant or when on maternity leave.

Even if someone is on an unlimited contract of employment, which means they can generally be terminated at any time, there still has to be a valid reason. In many cases, this will be for financial reasons or performance issues.

As this is not the case, EC has grounds to register a complaint for arbitrary dismissal at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE). This assumes that she has been working for a mainland company or a free zone that has adopted UAE Labour Law.

The issue of arbitrary dismissal is covered in Article 122 of the Labour Law which states: “The termination of the employment of the worker by the employer shall be deemed arbitrary should the cause of termination not be related to the work … ”

This is followed by Article 123, which says: “Should the worker be arbitrarily dismissed, the competent court may order the employer to pay a compensation to the worker. The court shall assess such compensation, taking into account the type of work and the extent of damage incurred to the worker as well as the duration of employment and after the investigation of the work conditions. In all cases, the amount of compensation shall not exceed the wage of the worker for a period of three months calculated on the basis of the last due wage.”

In this situation, it appears EC has been unfairly terminated and has a good case against the employer.

I was recently terminated from a reputed bank. It has been two months now and I am still chasing them for my compensation. They gave me a letter called ‘Acceptance of Resignation’ where the terms and conditions indicate that they owe me three months' salary plus my end-of-service gratuity. However, my former employer is not replying to my emails. I have been told my dues are still being processed. How long can the payment be delayed? I am preparing to leave the UAE and am running short of money. Is there a solution without going to the Ministry? CL, Dubai

I would expect a major bank to follow the law and general guidelines and pay monies owed to a terminated employee within a reasonable time frame. There is no mention of when exactly the gratuity and redundancy compensation should be paid but it ought to be paid at the time the visa is cancelled and the professional work relationship ends.

The usual procedure is that an employee is asked to sign paperwork to confirm they have received all money owed to them before visa cancellation, so they should be paid on the last day they are an employee.

There are cases where the employer has financial issues and requests whether the dues can be paid over a specified time frame but this should only happen with the employee’s agreement. I would not expect a bank to have a problem in paying salary and other benefits. It is unprofessional of them not to reply and explain the cause of the delay.

If the bank is not paying what is owed, the standard course of action is to register a case against them with the MoHRE.

CL has not explained why she does not want to go to the Ministry but this is the recommended course of action. There is no cost to her and as CL has already been terminated, there should be no consequences other than to enforce the bank to pay what is owed.

CL can contact the MoHRE directly on 800 60 or via the website www.mohre.gov.ae. There is a useful online chat function on the contact page for initial enquiries and complaints.

I urge CL to speak to them as she has nothing to lose and she needs to take action to be paid the money she is legally owed.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 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: July 11, 2020 08:57 AM

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