Keren Bobker is on your side as she gives readers advice on private tuition, banking frustrations and job offers.
On Your Side: Private tuition in violation of teachers' contracts
I am a teacher, living and working in Abu Dhabi. I have been approached by a couple of parents asking if I could privately tutor their children. I would be interested in doing this, but obviously don’t want to do anything I shouldn’t. I am not sure where I stand on this legally and would appreciate your thoughts before I speak to the head teacher about permission. JB, Abu Dhabi
Private tuition is officially illegal in the UAE, although it does go on and reports have suggested that as many as 50 per cent of children here have received private tuition at some point. To do any work outside that of your regular employer requires the employer's formal permission. But strictly speaking, teachers do not have this option. In September 2011, Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), said: "Teachers should not engage in private lessons for money ... the Council's new work contracts deprive all teachers from doing so and any one proved to be giving private lessons will be sacked." Any teacher employed by Adec would be in breach of contract if they were paid for private tuition.
I have been having an ongoing problem with HSBC. I opened a new joint account after my wife arrived in the UAE. I was promised by my "relationship manager" that all features from my previous account would be transferred across to the new one. After the joint account had been open for a few months, the old account, in my name only, was closed. I rarely use the credit card these days, but my wife made two cash withdrawals in error in December, having confused the credit and the debit cards. I received no paper statement for months and then the first paper statement I received was for last month, with all sorts of unexpected late payment charges. I checked my online account and could see no details of the credit card at all. After a long hold in the phone banking queue, they told me that the credit card had been unlinked from the online current account and they then reconnected it. I now have access to old e-statements and the one with the cash withdrawal, which I obviously had no access to at the time, clearly states, "Your specified account will be debited for AED1,422.78 on 05 FEB 2012". As soon as I received the paper statement with late fees on it (on April 1), I e-mailed my relationship manager. Two days later, after no response, I e-mailed him again. This time I got an out-of-office message saying he was on leave and referring me to someone else. I e-mailed this person, but there was no response. I e-mailed him again and received a series of out-of-office messages or messages not properly answering my questions. This is frustrating and I still don't know exactly how much extra I am being charged. JH, Abu Dhabi
It is clear that it is not JH's fault that he has been charged late fees and he has received an unacceptably poor level of service. I referred the problem to HSBC and, soon after, the bank advised JH that it would refund the late payment fees. HSBC also apologised for not correctly transferring the direct debit. JH is happy with the outcome and has been refunded more than Dh300 in fees.
I am planning a move to Dubai to take up a new job and my wife will be coming to join me once I have settled in a few months' time. I have accepted a role with a medium-sized company, but have now found out that my wife is pregnant with our first child. Will this affect the job offer and will she get medical cover? Are there any others issues that I should now be aware of given our changed situation? SB, UK
It is unlikely that an employer would retract a job offer, but I suggest that you speak to them as soon as possible to see if antenatal and maternity care will be covered by the medical insurance scheme set up by the company. There is no legal requirement that medical cover be provided for people on a Dubai resident's visa and it is simply down to the terms of the scheme that was set up. Generally, only the larger and more generous schemes cover immediate pregnancy. If the one you are on does not, you will be unable to arrange private maternity cover because plans all have a waiting period, usually a minimum of nine months. You will be able to purchase a fixed-price antenatal and birth package from major hospitals here. Once the baby is born, you will need to sort out a passport and residency, but you can speak to the British Embassy about the passport and your company PRO should assist with the residency visa. If not, it is a relatively straightforward process to sort out. You can also employ a company to handle the paperwork on your behalf. If it is not mentioned in your contract, you should also ask your company to cover the cost of nursery and school fees. This may sound a long way off, but these are expensive and it is good to plan ahead. Finally, if you have not made a will, you should do so and may also want to consider taking out some life assurance.