x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

On Your Side: Companies that keep passports are breaking law

Plus questions about end-of-service gratuity payments and an unresolved complaint about a Dubai moving company, answered by The National's consumer advocate.

My company insists on holding my passport while I work for it. The policy is being enforced for all employees, other than top management. Being a citizen of Germany, what options do I have? I have basically been told by my boss that if I don't give up my passport, I will be let go. Whenever I need my passport, I have to fill out a "passport release form", which is quite humiliating since I basically have to tell them why I need MY passport. Without losing my job, what other option is there? MB, Abu Dhabi

It is illegal for an employer to insist on retaining an employee's passport. A passport is the property of the government that issues it. In this case, it is the property of the German government. In the UAE, you must give your passport to your employer to get the residency visa stamped in it, but afterwards the employer should return it promptly, particularly because many passports state that it should not be handed to an unauthorised body. In this context, an employer falls into that category. There are two things that you can do. Firstly, you can contact the German Embassy in Abu Dhabi. I would not expect it to take action based on an individual complaint, but if all German nationals who have the same problem contact their embassy, it may then try to assist. You can also file a case with the Ministry of Labour, which will agree that the retention of an employee's passport is illegal. The ministry would then contact the company to advise it that it should release any passport for an employee's safekeeping. The ministry's helpline is 800 665.

 

On October 13, I moved from a one-bedroom apartment in Dubai Marina to a two-bedroom apartment also in Dubai Marina, literally a two-minute journey away. I found a company online called In Touch Shipping & Forwarding and decided to go with it as they were available on short notice. They also offered me a good price based on the distance from one apartment to the other and the number of things to move. But I had a series of problems with these guys. The main issues included: a bag of new clothes worth Dh1,100 disappeared and a Dh600 black dress was damaged after one of the movers spilt bleach and touched the dress with his hands. When they apologised, he admitted to the damage. A six-speaker set for my PC, which cost Dh759, also arrived damaged. In addition, various food items that we had imported were eaten without permission and they also helped themselves to drinks without even bothering to ask. There were other issues, such as leaving our belongings outside unattended and various household items, like soaps and shampoos, were not delivered to the new apartment until I asked where they were. After I paid, they immediately left and I wasn't even offered my change back. We had to have furniture cleaned because they stood on fabric-covered chairs with dirty feet and lost various fixings, so I am less than happy. I have contacted the company several times to complain, but they will not talk to me. BL, Dubai

I contacted In Touch Shipping & Forwarding in regard to this issue. It disputed BL's version of events. The company also said it had resolved the issue with BL, which is not the case. The company went on to say that it would visit him the next day to discuss the matter and try to resolve it, but no representative turned up. BL has not received any further communication from In Touch, despite our efforts to contact it.

 

I have worked for my employer since February 19, 2007, and, according to my contract, I have a two-month notice period. If I were to resign at the end of December this year and work my full two-month notice period, how would my gratuity be calculated? Would my annual bonus be included? DW, Dubai

Employees are entitled to receive a full gratuity payment based on the total period of service, from the start date to the end of their notice period. In accordance with UAE Labour Law, Article 132, any "employee who has completed one year or more in continuous service is entitled to the end-of-service remuneration at the end of his service". If the period of service is less than five years, the standard calculation is 21 days of pay for each year of service. This increases to 30 days for each additional year. Because DW will have completed more than five years of service by the time his notice period is reached, there will be no reduction in the end-of-service gratuity. For these calculations, the full period of employment is used, including the notice period. DW is entitled to 21 days of pay for each year of the full five years , calculated pro-rata for partial years, plus an extra amount for an additional nine days. His entitlement is 105.75 days for the final salary. This does not include allowances, but should include any commission or bonuses that are a regular feature of his salary. If a bonus is paid on an annual basis only, this becomes something of a grey area and unless it has been paid for several years and is documented in the employment contract, it is unlikely to be regarded as a regular payment and not included in a gratuity calculation.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com or onyourside@thenational.ae