Plus withholding 'caution money' from a final paycheque and the changes for freelance work visas from our consumer advocate, Keren Bobker.
On Your Side: Workers can read their detailed labour contracts online
My new employer has not provided me with a copy of my labour contract. I am concerned because I am not receiving all the benefits that he originally offered, but I have nothing in writing to back up my claims. Can I force him to give me a copy or can I make some kind of formal complaint? RS, Dubai
It seems irregular that an employer would not provide a copy of a labour/employment contract and you have every right to request and retain a copy of your terms of employment. If your employer refuses to provide a copy, you can obtain one from the Ministry of Labour. You need to take a photocopy of your labour card and submit it at the customer service counter of any Ministry of Labour office. The staff will then be able to provide you with a printout of your contract that must, by law, be filed with the ministry. Alternatively, it is now possible to obtain a copy of the formal contract that has been filed with the Ministry of Labour via its website (www.mol.gov.ae/ownersservices/login.aspx?lang=eng). You will need your labour card or passport number.
• Read Keren Bobker's past columns on legal and labour issues in the UAE at On Your Side
I am a teacher working in Al Ain. My contract ends this year and I will be leaving the country. I have read through the English version of the UAE Labour Law and I am concerned about a leaving procedure that was only brought to my attention once I resigned. The company I work for says, according to its Leaving Requirements document, it will withhold Dh2,000 of "caution money" from my final salary cheque. The money will be returned to me after three months. The caution money is said to be related to staff living in company accommodation in case of unpaid bills or damage done to the apartment. The company does not own the apartment building, but rents the building from another party. However, the company does own the furnishings in the flat. I am concerned because several employees in the past have not had this money returned to them without fighting for it or have not received it until five months later. Caution money is not mentioned in my contract. The company says it is an internal policy, but it has not produced a copy of this to me. I also have not signed any document, housing or otherwise, that has mentioned this money. I am wondering if this internal policy is a breach of Article 60 in the Labour Law, or if it is covered by Article 61 entitling the employer to deduct money for damage to its property. CT, Al Ain
This is clearly an internal procedure of the school. If the issue of caution money was not raised previously and does not form part of any contract, the school does not have the right to withhold these monies. The document also advises that because the school provides the accommodation, a representative will inspect the apartment at the time of leaving, do an inventory check and take a meter reading. If there has been more than reasonable wear and tear, it would not be unreasonable for the school to expect the tenant to pay for this, in that specific circumstances some monies could potentially be retained, but this can surely be ascertained at that time. Bear in mind that despite many claims to the contrary, it is not the tenant's responsibility to redecorate a property before handing it back, nor should they be charged for the cost of this, unless repairs are required that are more than just wear and tear. It is my view that the issue of withholding caution money cannot be enforced because it does not form part of the contract of employment or tenancy. If the school insists on withholding monies, even if there is no damage to the property or the contents, then a complaint can be made to the Ministry of Labour.
I would like some information about the legality of working in Abu Dhabi while being on my husband's visa. I know that employers will usually do the necessary paperwork if one is taking on a proper job, but what happens if I wanted to do freelance consultancy work? I worked for myself before I moved to the UAE and my line of expertise would lend itself very well to working freelance. Is there a way for me to do this in Abu Dhabi? I don't want to spend a lot of time or money setting up a proper company because I only want to work a few hours each week. PS, Abu Dhabi
I was last asked about this issue 18 months ago, at which time there were no freelance visas in Abu Dhabi. But the situation has now changed. It used to be the case that you couldn't work without a residence visa and labour card and could only work for your sponsor. Wives who have a spouse's visa may work under their husband's sponsorship provided he supplies a No Objection Certificate, but their employer must provide them with a labour card. Dubai has offered a freelance visa for some time in specific free zones and now something similar is available in Abu Dhabi. Twofour54, the government-owned entity, operates as a free zone and offers a freelance visa, but only for people working in certain media-related categories. The cost of an annual licence has been set at Dh5,000 and licensees are also required to pay a one-off refundable deposit of Dh15,000. Once a freelance licence has been issued, twofour54 will apply for a UAE residence visa for non-GCC nationals for an additional cost of Dh1,900. There is no requirement to rent an office. Full details can be found at www.twofour54.com. I understand that a freelance visa is also available in Fujairah.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.