x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

On Your Side: Labour law differs for those who work for the Government

There is no requirement for the employer to pay for annual flights to a home country.

I was recruited from overseas and work in a government department. I assumed the standard once-a-year flight home for me and family applied under law, as was the case when I previously worked in the UAE. The actual contract is no more informative, but I was told it is all-inclusive and that the allowances covered schooling and housing. There is no breakdown in the contract. Is it the case that such contracts can cover yearly repatriation as well? Also, the personal effects shipping allowance when travelling here was quoted as "one tonne", and then by phone an allowance of Dh4,000 was quoted. The shipping company quoted Dh28,000 for 104kg, so in the end I had to bring nothing other than suitcases. I assume, therefore, that I will be personally up for costs of a container should I wish to repatriate my accumulated furniture at contract end. Are there standard rules in such matters? TP, Abu Dhabi

The complication here is that UAE Labour Law does not apply to employees of the Federal Government, government departments and workers in municipalities, as well as those in the police or armed forces and domestic servants. In most cases, however, employees have contracts that reflect the labour law, but if they do not, or the employer does not adhere to this particular law, the employee does not have the right to make a complaint to the Ministry of Labour. In a standard contract, written in accordance with UAE Labour Law, "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 would only apply in this case if written into the contract. There is also no requirement for the employer to pay for annual flights to a home country, but this is accepted as standard practice in the UAE because of the large number of expatriate workers. Again, this cannot be enforced in this case, unless written into the contract of employment. There are no rules regarding the transportation of personal effects to or from a home country and once again, this is a matter of personal agreement with an individual employer. Unless the written contract confirms that the employer will pay for the shipping of personal items, the individual will be liable. In all cases, the wording and provisions of a contract is important and everyone should ensure that the contract reflects the required and agreed terms of employment before accepting any position.

I have been working for a large company since last year. When I receive my time sheet, it displays my salary like a payslip, with deductions, rate and net pay. Is it against the law to show other employees my time sheet and pay information when I have not received it? All the other employees know what my salary is and the admin staff hand it out in the open to me and also other staff. Also, I have asked the company numerous times to issue me with an actual payslip, but it has only done this three times and then it stopped. Can you give me guidance on this matter? WS, Abu Dhabi

Although there is no law that states that a company cannot use time sheets in this way, it is unethical and unprofessional. An employee's salary information should be treated in confidence and I suggest you take up the issue with your HR department. It is, however, a legal requirement that all employees are provided with a payslip, either in paper format or by e-mail. Because employees must be paid by way of the Wages Protection System, it should be simple for employers to provide this information in a timely manner.

I have seen previous questions regarding a company called Avenue Blinds, in which readers have had a problem with the company. I wish I had read the columns before I placed my order with them. Now I am stuck trying to get my money back. I paid them Dh20,000 for an order that was never fulfilled. I cancelled my order with them and the promise was I would get my money back in three days. It has now been more than eight weeks and no luck. Every time I call them, I get a vague answer stating that the boss is not there to sign it. I have the payment receipt, as well as the charge on my card. AK, Dubai

Sadly, this is yet another example of poor service from Avenue Blinds. AK placed an order with the company for a set of blinds, but it was not until after he had paid that he was told that the company did not have the materials in stock and that it would be weeks before the company would be able to fulfil his order. This is not what was agreed to so, and not unreasonably, AK cancelled the order. Avenue Blinds initially declined to make any refund. Eventually, it made an offer to repay just Dh6,929, stating that when the materials eventually arrived, it would be held for his benefit. AK has asked for the materials to be delivered, but this saga has been going on for months. I have tried to contact the company several times, but it has ignored my e-mails and not responded to any telephone messages. This attitude does not demonstrate a regard for customers - and this is not the first time that readers have had a problem when dealing with Avenue Blinds. I would urge caution when dealing with the company and placing substantial orders.

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