x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

On Your Side: Ramadan working hours are shortened for all employees

Our consumer advocate takes readers' questions on obtaining a visa for a male child after they reach age 18, an issue with cancelling a bank account with Emirates NBD, and a favourable resolution with Dubai Pet Products.

Companies usually allow their employees, even non-fasting Muslims, to leave early from work during the holy month of Ramadan. Karim Sahib /AFP
Companies usually allow their employees, even non-fasting Muslims, to leave early from work during the holy month of Ramadan. Karim Sahib /AFP

For quite a few years, our company has allowed everyone to leave two hours earlier during the month of Ramadan and to choose to work from 8am to 3pm, or 9am to 4pm for the full month. Naturally, we assumed this would be the case this year, but we have been told, although not in writing, that the company cannot afford for us to take so much time off this year and it would "prefer" that only those employees who are fasting work the shorter hours. The implication that we should work normal hours is quite heavy, but nothing is in writing as yet. This has not gone down well with the rest of the people as we do not get paid overtime for the additional working hours. What is the legal situation? RD Abu Dhabi

Article 65 of the UAE Labour Law states: "During the month of Ramadan, normal working hours shall be reduced by two hours." As the company could be breaking the law by not offering shorter working hours to everyone, you can report it to the Ministry of Labour, which should investigate, insist the law be enforced and, in some cases, fine companies that are in breach of it. The ministry's helpline number is 800 665. My understanding is that provided your employer is not forcing you to work additional hours and is happy for you to continue working, you may do so. Some people may be eligible for overtime payments for these additional hours, but only provided this has been agreed with the employer from the outset.

 

We have just moved to the UAE with our teenage children, but have now heard that there may be a problem with them staying here once they reach the age of 18. My husband is on a three-year contract that we have been told will be renewable, so we plan to stay for quite a few years. Although the eldest is now just 15, I would like to know what the situation is so that we can plan for when she reaches 18. My son is 13. Surely there are options for older teenage children? LD Abu Dhabi

Under current legislation, unmarried daughters can be sponsored by their father at any age, but this is not the case for sons. They can no longer be sponsored by their father once they reach 18 and so must obtain their own residency visa to remain residents in the UAE. They can do this either by finding a job and being sponsored by their employer, or by obtaining a student visa via their college or university.

 

I am about to leave the UAE, but am having some issues cancelling my bank account with Emirates NBD. I made a purchase with my online credit card with Amazon, which I cancelled on the same day (July 1), but the bank is still holding the blocked-off amount for the purchase and won't release it within the time I have left in Dubai. I have an email from Amazon that shows the order was cancelled, but the issue is whether it will release these funds in time for me to cancel the credit card and close the account. There were two orders that were made that day, the first is the one that needs to be cancelled for the above amount. I have had issues before with a bank in the UAE and it took me three months to close that account because no one at the bank actually submitted the papers. I don't want this to happen again because I am leaving the UAE permanently. SM Dubai

I spoke with SM, who said she had contacted the bank several times and was told there was an outstanding balance, that the money was on hold and there was nothing it could do to release it. I contacted Emirates NBD, which said: "After looking into SM's transaction history, we have informed her that the mentioned transaction has not been billed to her credit-card account and, at present, a hold has not been placed on the card. We would also like to bring to your attention that SM did not previously raise this matter with the bank through any of our customer-service channels. Furthermore, SM has been provided with necessary guidance to finalise the closure of her account and credit card."

 

In December 2011, I ordered a pet drinking fountain from a company called Dubai Pet Products, which is part of Emirates Avenue. It was delivered and worked fine until a few weeks ago. I have tried to contact Dubai Pet Products, but have not had a response. I understand that the law says I should get a refund or replacement. KC Dubai

Emirates Avenue was in the process of selling Dubai Pet Products, which was why emails went unanswered initially. Once I tracked them down, the new owners of the company acted very quickly and arranged for a replacement pet fountain - the latest top-of-the-range model - to be delivered within days.

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