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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Should I accept a three-year Dubai job contract that penalises me if I resign early?

The reader is currently based in Singapore and is unsure whether to make the move to the UAE due to the employment terms.

The hospital says the applicant will incur penalties if they leave before the three-year contract ends. Lee Hoagland/The National
The hospital says the applicant will incur penalties if they leave before the three-year contract ends. Lee Hoagland/The National

I have been offered a position at a medical facility in Dubai with a three-year contract. My intention is to stay for the three years but I don't know what the future holds. The hospital has sent me the contract advising that if I leave earlier than three years, I will have to reimburse them for three months’ salary, tickets, visa fees and recruitment agency fees. Do they follow up on this? What would the reparation be? I've worked abroad before where this was written in the contract but never actually followed up. Employees would leave and return to their country of origin with no problems. I'm unsure whether I should accept this contract. MN, Singapore

These days most fixed/limited contracts in Dubai are for two years, although a three-year document can be arranged. I assume the role is with a private rather than government clinic as only non-government entities are covered by UAE Labour Law. This law, Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, makes clear reference to the penalties that apply when an employee, or an employer, breaks the terms of a fixed contract - although this contract is requesting much more and that is contrary to the law and will not be upheld. Only the stipulations in Labour Law are legitimate clauses and no employer is permitted to contract around UAE law.

Article 116 of Labour Law states: "Should the contract be rescinded by the worker … the worker shall be bound to compensate the employer for the loss incurred thereto by reason of the rescission of the contract, provided that the amount of compensation does not exceed the wage of half a month for the period of three months, or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter, unless otherwise stipulated in the contract." It has been made clear by the government on numerous occasions that employers are not permitted to pass on the costs of employing any member of staff. This is set out in Ministerial Order 52 of 1989, Article 6 which states: "The employer or its legal representative shall sign the recruitment application form prepared by the Ministry for this purpose, such a form shall include the following undertakings: (a) An undertaking from the employer to the effect that he shall sponsor and be responsible for the recruited labourer, the bearing of his recruitment expenses and his employment in accordance with the employment contract in a way not prejudicing the provision of the Federal Law No (8) of 1980 referred to herein...." This clearly states that this is the employer’s responsibility.

The penalty for breaking a contract, equivalent to 45 days salary, is payable at the time of departure and is usually taken from salary and any other benefits due, at the time of leaving employment when the visa is cancelled. I would be somewhat concerned about any employer that attempts to get employees to accept contract terms that are contrary to UAE law. To clarify, MN would be liable to a penalty equivalent to 45 days salary but does not have to reimburse his employer for any of the costs incurred in recruiting him.

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Read more from Keren Bobker:

How long can I overstay on a UAE residence visa before I am fined?

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I am an instrument engineer by profession working in Sharjah but on my visa my job is shown as Instrument Mechanic. Is there any problem if I apply for a role as an instrument engineer post with another organisation? Will it affect my career in any way? SP, Sharjah

It is not uncommon for people to have a job title on their residency visa that doesn’t fully reflect what they actually do for a living. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has a set list of job titles and in some cases a specific role may not be listed so something similar is used. Companies may also have used up their quota of visas for specific roles or will apply under a different job title. While a person’s designation should reflect their role, it is rarely an issue unless the titles are very different, or someone needs to be in management role to obtain visas to travel to certain countries for work. I would not expect a similar title to have an adverse effect if the difference is minimal and explainable.

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Can you tell me if I have been blacklisted? I left my job without giving notice in January 2017 and am worried I may not be able to return. PK, India

This newspaper cannot assist with checking on individual cases. PK has to do this himself and information is generally not given to a third party (apart from an employer applying for a visa) due to data protection rules. A person is usually “blacklisted” because of a criminal offence, absconding or a medical reason and this can be for a specific or an unlimited period, depending on the circumstances. Individuals will need to contact the Immigration Department in the emirate they worked to request confirmation in respect of their own case.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.

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