x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

On Your Side: Housing allowances are not mandatory for UAE employers

The National's consumer advocate answers readers' questions about housing allowances, a Cobone deal, a company's obligations after serving notice of termination and more.

A reader had a problem with a deal involving an iPad through Cobone.com. Reuters
A reader had a problem with a deal involving an iPad through Cobone.com. Reuters

Is it the law that an employer in the UAE is obliged to pay you a housing allowance that ensures adequate housing for yourself and your family? -IS Abu Dhabi

There is no law that stipulates that an employer must pay any housing allowance, let alone one at a specific level. While many expats receive a housing allowance as part of their package, this is a benefit that they negotiate with their employer and is not part of UAE Labour Law.

 

About a month ago, I saw an offer on Cobone, the group-buying website, for an iPad 3 64GB Wi-Fi. It cost Dh2,789, a saving of Dh 1,000. I applied, paid and received the voucher. I then emailed the voucher to the supplier, a company called MultiMinds, based in Dubai. The voucher specified delivery within four to five working days. A week later, I still hadn't received it and so I called MultiMinds, which gave me various answers about when it would be delivered. These included "tomorrow", "this week" and "waiting for stock". After getting nowhere with MultiMinds, I contacted Cobone for a refund. They were less than helpful, but a week or so later I received an email from MultiMinds asking for my bank details so it could send me a refund. That was almost two weeks ago and no refund has been paid. How do I get the refund and who should be making it? I received an email today from Cobone basically washing its hands of it and telling me I should deal directly with MultiMinds. -MM Dubai

I referred the matter to Paul Kenny, the chief executive of Cobone, and the promised refund was made the same day. MM is delighted with the outcome. Mr Kenny acted promptly, which is how problems such as these should be resolved.

 

My unlimited employment contract has been terminated after my firm merged with another company in the same group and I have been given 30 days' notice as per contract. I applied for reimbursement of my annual flight on the same day as the termination, but before it occurred. Including the notice period, I will have worked there for 10 months. Am I still entitled to the full amount or are they allowed to only pay 10 months out of 12 of the cost? A friend has advised that I am entitled to compensation of three months' salary. Is this correct? -NG Abu Dhabi

NG's entitlement to benefits on being made redundant depends on the wording of the employment contract signed by both parties, as well as the standard UAE Labour Law. An employer is obliged to provide an employee with a flight to return to their country of origin at the end of a contract, as per Article 131 of UAE Labour Law, which says: "Expenses for repatriation of an employee to his place of origin or any other place agreed upon by both parties shall be borne by the employer." But this only applies if the employee returns to a home country and does not take up new employment, in which case the new employer is then liable. If a contract of employment states that the employer will pay for an annual flight, it is the actual wording that is relevant and whether this is payable after a year of service or if it accrues pro-rata. Employees who are made redundant are not automatically entitled to three months' salary unless this is clearly stated in their contract. Article 117 of the Labour Law states that "the employer and employee may terminate the employment contract with unlimited period for a valid reason at any time after conclusion of the contract by written notice duly given to other party, 30 days at least prior to termination".

 

I am British and have been living in Dubai for two years. I still pay UK National Insurance contributions, but have a query about receiving National Health Service (NHS) treatment. Some friends are telling me that I should receive free treatment as I hold a British passport and have paid into the system for years, but others say that I am not entitled to anything as I am not living in the UK. Can you clarify? -GE Dubai

If a UK resident leaves the country and is working overseas and not paying income tax, they will generally be presumed to be non-resident for tax purposes and, as such, no longer eligible for free treatment under the NHS. The payment of voluntary National Insurance contributions counts towards the State Pension and has nothing to do with being able to use the NHS as a non-resident of the UK. . Generally, emergency treatment is free for anyone who requires it, but there may be a charge for associated treatment. Each health authority will have its own guidelines, but they are unlikely to vary. To be treated without charge, you would have to take up full-time residency in the UK again.

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